Curiously Colorito

By Anthony Ivar Colorito

Category: Fiction (page 1 of 2)

Sauvie Island Beach


The tugboats are working overtime as the viral pandemic seizes the city. I watch the red and white craft stacked upon itself, built up onto five levels, and piled backwards in its squat dutiful power, like some toy boat found in a child’s playpen now come to life on the quivering river, charged with pushing a massive rust-colored barge, shoving this enormous tanker, from behind along the otherwise quiet expanse of the Willamette river.


Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson loom in the background. White-capped monstrosities of rock and dirt pictured in the air and surrounded by the blueness of the Portland sky, present like an indelible backdrop to all the mundane fears huddled and momentarily allayed here on the beach; the peaks also unreal and dense with the fantasy of art painted in a dream, almost palpable and intimidating from a distance but, through their inertness, never fulfilling the scope of their imposing majesty.


We both sit on a grassy knoll just above the sandy beach abutting the river on Sauvie Island. A blanket and two towels have been laid down on the grainy grass and we both sit quietly for a moment simply observing the couples with children and the dogs all overlooking a two hundred yard divide of river-water separating us from the other side. I set down my leather tote filled with picnic foods and lay my satchel and colorful sweatshirt behind me as a pillow.


Sher decides to test the water and she kicks off her leather foot-thongs and quickly jaunts toward the water with the brisk urgency that defines how she addresses what is before her. I watch her petite shapely derriere wink and shift as she approaches the river’s edge and she immerses her feet in the water. I can tell the water temperature is cold. She shuffles back as her feet take on a sandy paste peppered with dirt. Her majenta toenails gleam through the tan and black coating, her feet reminding me of breaded chicken breasts, coated with peppered flour and breadcrumbs ready for the fryer.


The tugboat and the object it has been toiling behind glide down the flank of the river and disappear around a bend. Waves wash up gently on the shoreline. Several people are out today disobeying “stay-at-home” orders. Dogs on leashes pull their owners towards other dogs, children with colorful Hawaiian style board-shorts fill pails with wet sand and young couples bask and playfully entwine with each other on towels spread out under the sun.


I look out across the river and see densely huddled pines inched close to the shoreline. The trees are short in height and all remarkably straight and uniform in posture with the occasional bend in the crooked branch but astoundingly and homogenously uniform and these secluded brethren crowd in on themselves and guard some sacred secret within their cascading palisades of green life. Directly in the front row there is one tree with a bright green sign nailed to its trunk. If anything is written on it, the words are imperceptible.


A white ski boat with black highlights motors by blasting its tower speakers. This act of self-aggrandizement seems lost in the clearness of everyone else’s intentions to escape from annoyances and impending questions arising in recent weeks from a crisis at hand. High-pitched children’s voices soon overcome the dissipating growl of the boat’s departing engine and the music fades quickly like a Parisian police siren losing the tenor of its grip on sound over the elongating distance.


There have been a rash of warm days during what is usually a cool, rainy month in Portland. The population has been told to stay in doors and not mix socially. Parks and outdoor attractions have closed their access. We visited this beach three days ago in the late afternoon and as evening ushered in a cold wind we realized we were underdressed and vowed to return in a day or so. The beach was deserted that day. Today is a different story. It is Friday and people are out in droves all with similar ideas, yet there is plenty of space and it is refreshing to have not been barred access or told the beach was off-limits. In addition, the people-watching is excellent today.


The afternoon elapses quickly before our eyes; that lovely phenomenon where two souls together, connected and bonded by so may commonalities, are fused in a moment where there is no time to look up, or look after, or think about and not a sliver of anxiety or fear arises and so time passes in large chunk-like intervals instead of increments and then before long we realize the time has unfolded so rapidly that it becomes immaterial and lost in the poetic intervals of a dream we now have for ourselves.


After we share a late lunch of croissants and smoked salmon with savory cheeses and raspberry jam, we read for a while, then sleep briefly, and then read some more. The dreamy warm air around us, and the moisture from our skin along with sweet smells of breath, all conspire to elevate the day as it drifts into evening. A breeze cools the curves and contours of Sher’s exposed skin prompting her to nestle closer for warmth as the air feels heavier and the clock approaches 6:45.


The evening sets the table for a new mood and as others fold up their blankets and rinse sand from their children’s plastic pails, we find ourselves locking eyes and exploring within each other an already blissful connection that is now amplified by a moment rendering us both speechless with gratitude. Around the periphery, reluctant kids pout as parents throw bags over their shoulders and trudge the hill of sand to the staircase. A yellow Frisbee glides by tilting sideways as it cuts through the clear air and blue horizon.


Sher now rolls back onto her right side with her eyes closed in meditation. I marvel at the curve of her hip and the proud flounce of her bottom as my eyes climb into the network of branches tattooed on the elaborate tree marking her entire back. There is a darkness to the ink embedded under the skin, texturing the bark of the branches, that lets in the lightness of her flesh tones, a rippling of light accentuated by the subcutaneous hills and valleys made by her scapulae and the protuberant spinous processes hidden and all along her thorax.


I roll onto my back and watch. I look straight up above me into the unfathomable infinity of blue space. A sky writer pierces the sky with a white, linear plume of exhaust. I watch as the concentrated density in the blast of writing uncoils from its straight-line imprint slowly thinning and widening into gaseous entropy and blending with the myriad shades of blue owned by the sky until the trail is a vague mist and then nothing but blue with the vestige of what ultimately seems like a smudged cloud.


I pick up my novel and read, shielding my eyes from the waning sun with the book. It is about a man named Ove, a cantankerous old Norwegian man whose behavior as a pedantic curmudgeon is spawned by grief after the death of his wife. He lives in a black and white world ruled by propriety and dogma. He is nothing like me but I find myself loving him and caring about him and empathizing with his foibles more than I would expect. The sentences are short and concise, filled with economy and populated with an array of the spiritual that comes through what is not said. The abundance of simplicity surrounds me on all sides. My reading slows to savor the expansion of what is written into the sacred nature of the unsaid. I ponder the value of silence. I feel overcome by a strong desire to drift aimlessly on this silence as a mission towards finding only the necessary words for the moment.   If the words do not come, I aim to bask in even more silence.


I now roll over onto my right side and see Sher still engaged in her own version of the solitude we have been culturing together. I watch as Sher’s rib cage rises and falls with each breath. I notice all of her subtle unconscious movements: her neck tilting and toes flexing. The almost imperceptible wind caresses a few strands of her hair into an ever so slight elevation that may be static energy. Her hair takes on a slightly darker shade of reddish gold in the dim light of impending evening. I see the impression the bikini strap makes in her back as it winds around to support her breasts. I feel like the same force that coaxes strands of her hair apart also stimulates the goose flesh appearing on her thighs. I reach over and touch the soft angle where her thigh graduates into the curve of her derrier. I try to barely touch her skin but the erotic charge moves swiftly into my fingertips causing me to look even closer as if it might be visible.


Two almost empty containers of raspberry jam sit atop a paper bag that contained two croissants. An oily package that contained three varieties of smoked salmon lies on the blue and white striped beach towel. My beige Converse all-star, high-tops with Andy Warhol Campbell soup cans emblazoned on the sides of the canvas sit with untied laces on the grass spotted around the plastic toe piece with moist dirt. Next to them a pair of silver-framed, mirror-lensed aviator sun glasses sit on an oily napkin sprinkled with croissant crumbs. There are croissant crumbs all over the towels and an almond croissant in its plastic wrapper sits uneaten next to red-handle knife. A burgundy leather tote bag sits on the grass with a package of chex mix, nuts, two apples along with an unopened deck of playing cards.


Sher is now on her left side facing me. She is reading Demian by Herman Hesse. She takes a break and also stares at the red and blue replicas of soup cans on my Converse sneakers. Our eyes meet and we smile that secret smile between two people who realize they have something most people don’t have and pine for while never finding it. The river is now calm and no boats are in sight. The tugboats have finished their work for the day. Another family packs up their belongings and walks along the sand with their grade-school aged boy. I look over at the green sign nailed to the tree on the other side of the river. I ponder the other shoreline once again and notice there is no room for people there as the trees have crowded right up the edge of the water. I still cannot read what the sign says.


“The intensity of my sensations has always been less than the intensity of my awareness of them. I’ve always suffered more from my consciousness that I was suffering than from the suffering of which I am conscious.”

 “The life of my emotions moved early on to the chambers of thought, and that’s where I’ve most fully lived my emotional experiences of life.”

 “And since thought, when it shelters emotion, is more demanding than emotion by itself, the regime of consciousness in which I began to live what I felt made how I felt more down-to-earth, more physical, more demanding.”

 Fernando Pessoa

“The Book of Disquiet”


I was telling Massimo about all the times she broke up with me, yes times, plural, with an “s,” but he didn’t give a shit, just told me to suck it up.


“Forget about her, she’s not worth it. She’s not who you thought she was.”


Who is ever really the person one believes them to be? I thought, especially when you are in love with an idea, a fantasy. Believing another will somehow conform to a pre-established set of qualities I have created in a delusion of who I think they are remains a purely selfish act without rival.

This interchange with Massy was the standard, macho, dude-to-dude therapeutic identification with about as much validation as I could expect.


“Go find another chick and bang her.” He continued.

That’s the cure. Just land another one, especially with a big ass. They’re all over the place. It’s a medically proven fact.”


I locked eyes with Massy and was silent, holding back a grin and fighting the urge to participate in this.

Here was another one straight form Massimo’s famous textbook: “How to remain unconscious during and after every relationship with a woman and not lose an ounce of mojo.”

For him my experience was a textbook case, another scientific case study in how to cope with the bizarre and unpredictable behavior of women.

Fact was, I couldn’t listen to any of this and I don’t know why I engaged him. That’s false, I actually do know why; in the midst of his flat-out invulnerable sensibilities and ninja compartmentalization skills, I was able to glimpse my soul.


So I went about doing some soul-searching.

“Tell me about all the times she broke-up with you.” I asked myself this time.


Maybe if I established some distance from that part of me that fell in love and weathered the storm, I could gain some insight. I needed a better vantage point. The emotions I was feeling came up formless and amorphous with milky flickers of light the source of which I could not locate.

I needed to ask myself questions, get some answers, be transparent, move the veil aside, open the lid and feel around deeper under my usual motivations. I had to play differently with that searchlight and train on my insides, maybe find and expose the feminine part of myself I willingly handed over to her. I had to stop wavering and meandering in a lost field. Awareness is one thing but hearing it all at once is another.

Who is that psychiatrist? He wrote about the archetypes, broke with Freud because he was too spiritual? Carl Jung. I read in his books that falling in love for a man means unconsciously giving the female part of his soul to a woman and, to boot, you don’t even realize you are doing it. It’s all unconscious, genius. And it all happens, hook-in, line and sinker, the whole deal before you can blink. Who is this woman living inside me? I’ve never met her. At least she could show some compassion and introduce herself instead of fleeing the scene, embroiling me in a passionate love affair that I gave my all to only to have it mysteriously end and leave me in a quarry hammering rocks.

The first time I heard this I’m thinking, wow, that gives a lot of guys a pass, gets them a scientifically valid justification for infidelity. Massimo is taking that one to the bank. I’m sure wives weren’t too keen on CJ back in his day.

When I really think (here I go again thinking instead of feeling), you know, take the lid off my damn ego and rummage around below it somewhere, I find there was something mysteriously magnetic, and intrusively compelling, a vector-specific drive I could not control, forcing my hand, pushing me hard, operating deep in my gut, way down in those hollow visceral chambers. Or was it my heart? I don’t know how to tell where it’s coming from but one thing I’m clear as day on: my will could not stop the desire and it was not coming from rational thought.

What a heavy trip and after all this bliss and monumental misery in the space of days, I have to say I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

I started thinking of love as a jam I get myself into. It’s like finding beauty in nature and searching for myself and another at the same time, following a siren-call towards mating bald eagles in the distance and mysterious sunsets and shimmering streams sensually caressing against fluorescent rock formations and right when I’m immersed in the whole spiritual tranquility of the thing I’m lost and can’t find my way back. The path disappears, the scene changes at dusk to an ominous fairy tale where hidden creatures lurk.

So I started doing an autopsy of the relationship and made sure I didn’t go too far back. I don’t mind dissecting, in fact, I love it and that’s not just a metaphor. I’ve covered a lot of ground over the years dissecting every square millimeter of several cadavers and I’m grateful and honored to have been able to do that. What I’m talking about is different, though, and I’m kind of nervous and insecure about it, because my dissection takes the form of intellectually tearing apart emotions so they are not what they seem. When it’s all opened up and I peer into feelings a point emerges where I can’t even recognize them as feelings, and I wonder if they’re even coming from me or from someone else.

There were a few clues along the way, artifacts animated, vestiges and pathognomonic signs fingerprinted on the glass that grew into flares of realization. These kept coming back to life. The carousel revolved around a center post of love while feelings jumped on and off the ride. Christ, why did I put up with that? I don’t have that many lives left and right now the smell of formaldehyde is getting to me.

So I went back to the one I remembered best.

Taking into account my proclivities towards distorting emotions, I realized I’m not sure where these are coming from or if they’re even coming from me. After all, this feminine shadow wields mystical tools, so I better first quote my man Fernando Pessoa and then put these emotional thoughts down on paper.


“ In each of these sensations I am someone else painfully renewed in each indefinite impression.”

Fernando Pessoa

“The Book of Disquiet”


There was a moment where togetherness felt like floating on a tandem raft drifting on light rapids, manageable and exciting and this inflatable raft nuzzled against the massive polished rocks, brushing and touching with the inside pressed into both our bodies like an inflatable organ finding its blood flow.

Where, in the vigor of a fantastic dream, each other’s voice became a pilot light soothing the insides like a swallow of small-batch bourbon. We painted together and talked about poetry. We read searing and beautiful passages aloud where words became numinous with an electric eroticism.


I will be the rock and the driftwood your waves can brush against. You create, in me, such beautiful, smooth and fascinating shapes with your tide.


That happened, and that won’t be erased. No matter what usurps passionate moments some things I can’t forget.

By the second time she broke up with me (and even later there would be a third) I had moved from sadness that-now joined an emotional state I was unfamiliar with.

There were three in all, but it felt like a million small assaults, a cumulative barrage where the unexpected became the rule.   These incidents flogged me in moments when, guard down, I least suspected a blade sinking into the flesh of my heart.

I’m getting all these emotions now. Used to be I was pretty concrete about feelings: hungry, ecstatic, angry, sad; nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated just the standard flow of ups and downs. The emotions I was feeling now I couldn’t even name and they were trying to take me down. These were body blows, Mike Tyson uppercuts, blindside targeting headshots in a football game.

Maybe they were always there and I put them deep in hidden compartments and passageways and drowned them with bourbon and distraction.

So I keep asking myself now: I’ve got this chick living inside me and I’m handing her off and I don’t even know it and it affects my soul and then things go sideways and all I can do right now is live in it and try to describe it.

I’m searching for this person and there are yearnings and desires that somehow forecast and create this person for me. That’s what it feels like, like maybe this person didn’t exist before my unconscious drives and conscious desires created her. The thoughts I nurture become my reality. I guess that’s why all those people, billions of them, get down on their knees.

And then I deliver an essential element to her, I don’t even know I’m doing it and now she has it and she doesn’t really know how to handle it. In fact, not only does she not know how to handle it, she’s careless and reckless with compassion lacking. She’s kicking it around like a hackysack.


All right.

Are you sick of my shit yet?

I’m gonna continue to try and describe it.


A buoyant levity (or was it confusion drawn out and jagged?) upended grief and after the topple I lived inside a lurid, trembling curiosity. A tender and restrained interest coated the balance beam of my confidence creating a slick surface.

That’s what it feels like, if I try to intellectually describe a feeling. I feel like my confidence was shattered, shredded. Everything I did with her seemed to work. Actions and words pulled two people together into a flourishing spiritual connection. Was it all bullshit?

It was true until it turned on its head and then what do you say to yourself? How do you take the next step? Do I really want to reinvent myself?

A refrain echoed, calling me to move out of stillness. Was it a call to control? I no longer know which of my behaviors are irresponsibly manipulative. I can’t tell. I simply swear every one of them is tinged with large swaths of desire for courtship, and for me, that chivalrous drive is an element, polished and pure in my innermost recesses recalcitrantly emblazoned as love. I was dealing with this. I was listening to my inner voice. I was exposing this otherness living inside me.

Then, as if in the cross hairs of a sniper, I was struck fast. I remembered the joy we both felt, a few days before, after re-entering a connection that had been needlessly and ruthlessly discarded more than a month before, by her own fears. She had been living in those fears her entire life, but now, with their attachments fastened on our shared memories, the absurdity and dichotomy of her escape took on a comic hue. A tragically comic pallid light opened awareness in dreams and in the drama of our own experience; even in the deepest segments of my sorrows there was a dichotomy splitting the timbre of my nighttime sobs into both laughter and desperation.

Wow, where did that come from? I’m not gonna lie. I cried. Even after lateraling my feminine alter-ego I churned out some vulnerable insights. There I go again thinking about my emotions instead of experiencing them. I can’t tell if I’m dealing with intellectualized feelings or the emotions themselves. There is a masquerade. Emotions cut-through with intellectual embellishments travel a higher road along the ego’s territory submerging the actual emotions, disowning them like they belong to someone else. Are the thoughts of feelings contorted along the rational terrain of my awareness really emotions or am I deluding myself?


This is where Massimo comes in handy.

He said:

“ Let’s get a bottle of some good sipping tequila, we’ll talk about it.”

“You’ve got a find a way to forget about that shit, push it away, pretend it doesn’t exist go find someone else.”


Massy was reminding me what not to do. His psychological insights always amaze me. Pure, unalloyed emotions not experienced directly, not lived through, are repressed and they lay in wait always. They do not dissolve in the lap of Patron. They bite back.

Massimo always reminds me that you can repress these difficult feelings by creating all manner of thought games that shift and twist emotions into something else, something now different or distorted from the pure singular emotions that are born inside me right now. It is those, and it is then, at that instant, that I need to understand them, right when they are in their virgin state poised to teach me.

The truth is, those emotions come from the hollow chambers down there somewhere in the animal, in the instinctual terrain that wants to procreate and propagate the species. That’s what I keep trying to rummage around and find. But it is a nether-region without words without logic, only music with flourishes of art’s dizzying and immaculate silent presence.

We can’t find those after tequila and a long conversation with Massimo. It’s an inside job. Once I go that route those feelings are lost in the best macho male-speak.

So the second assault did not come as a surprise, yet, it acted as a paradoxical disintegration while we appeared to be riding the crest of communal bliss. You just can’t know another person. The light hits her hazel eyes and our sustained gazes, like pillowy visions of carnal union, sever truth as it tries to cross between us. A high-amplitude attraction hides sentiments where fear of abandonment or lack of trust smolders and damages the infrastructure two souls have constructed. Behavior mirrors the attraction while fear conscientiously works behind the scenes. The attraction could not be contained between us so how is that a problem? Friendship and common interests fed a wealth of compatibility drawing from vast sources inside both of us. Arousal for her, in a moment powerless to repress, becomes the tipping point for bizarre destructive strokes, brilliant in their cruel honesty, and sabotage, surfacing like a silent snake-strike out of the blue, an ambush that took my legs out on the way to a honeymoon.

Something in me kept coming back for more. Was this love? Was it manipulative, selfish, ego-driven love (representing actions outside of love’s purview) where my cracked center, injured and dragging, yearned for a conjoining glue to repair what only I could fix myself? I had faith but it had lost its bearings in a fog of my receding belief in love.









Holding Hands

It was a sublime afternoon.  They met for tea.  After it steeped they reclined on the master bed.  She fit snugly and perfectly with her head in his armpit, sides aligned and legs entwined.  Hands touched, fingertips graced with loving abrasion.  Each finger densely populated with coiled and sensate nerve endings, selecting in each other charged points of skin landscape. Hands focused upon one another.  Palms pressed connecting crevices and linear markings, possessing each other in an imagined co-registration of lifelines.  Flexion creases wrinkled together attaching roads embedded on a map leading to one spiritual center.    Even the distasteful wrinkles, like calloused canvas hidden on his worn hands, those marking that could write his story, unfolded into silken textures that enveloped her extreme softness.  His hand, in hers, acted as conjoined and unworked dollops of clay.  Virgin branches of hemlock, green with the sap of desire, their hands lovingly twisting into a forecasted future as driftwood.  Motor nerves shivered their contractions in the pulps of their phalanges molding and brushing hands into new shapes and contours. The electric pulses of invisible synapses opened new hollows within their palms vacated to house an erotic mist.  Fluid was born from fingertip tears.  Droplets, urged from a seminal place, were coaxed along the axial expanse of perceptive digits.  Sexual tension, mobile and shifting, became localized in the hypersensitive terrain where everything could be felt.  All fear and sadness wrapped up in the struggle of words moments earlier shifted and was courteously escorted down the avenues their upper extremities like tumbleweed on a deserted road.  Impeding feelings found a hidden space removed from the cascading overtures of our hands.  The world of inconsistency and tragedy hid in the folds of the sun-drenched curtains slowly darkening in the dusk.  The tightly drawn sheets and chenille spread over the bed seemed to amplify the suspension under their bodies.  Sensory feedback in their hands collided gently continuing its stream, a flow of unspoken information mirroring both hearts and merging each hand into the other.  As light touch progressed to interlocking, where the pallor of skin between fingers, exposed like the underside of blonde wood, digits slid against the yearning sides of an intercourse that was both simple and pregnant with great depth. Then, seriousness overcame her face.  While this union proceeded, her eyes narrowed and locked onto his in a stare that carried erotically charged anger.  He looked back at her and all the sensations seized an opening in her for a verbal torrent. It was an awakening to what was and the moment vanished into disbelief.

Fresh Blonde Pour-over


She was a Girl with Purple Hair


The courting instinct opens its wings like a butterfly long before being pinned to the padded collection paper and covered in cellophane. 

  This juvenile science project, whose voice comes from a confusing world, meets the veined wings, translucent like a new leaf, awkwardly bumping into pistils on their way to the dew-licked petals.

The racing net follows slow and haphazard attractions where the swallowtail or the monarch or maybe just the moth introduces the flower to the secrets of its own openings and refusals.

In the background the yellow jacket’s helix changes its mind like an off-kilter equation.


I pulled my SUV into the shopping-center driveway and parked in front of the café extending my driver-side tires onto a strip of sidewalk so I had separation from the car parked next to me. I checked on the dog in the back and he was comfortable in his bedding with his rawhide chew toys.


As I walked towards the coffee shop I noticed the dents in the body of my vehicle. Those were defects in the distracted sides of my psyche; careless brush-ups against poles in tight parking structures. The passenger side brake light plastic covering was fractured by an aberrant grocery cart let loose in a supermarket parking lot. Someone let it roll of its own volition and I found it kissing the rear of my truck one day as I walked back with bags of food. I just smiled and walked the cart over to the receptacle and crashed it into the others. These things used to bother me when I felt I needed to be on top of my game at all times. Now they were reminders. I refused to fix them.


I walked into the café and scanned the four possible private two-seat tables in the back and found one unoccupied.   I dropped my coat and satchel and studied the counter. There was a line of four customers and three young women worked taking orders and preparing beverages.


She was there at the counter with her loose fitting green apron. I noticed how her close-kept face watched over the customers and the tasks of her co-workers. She was a girl with purple hair. A strip of tightly braided hair wound around the top of her head like a crown. I could feel the old legends in the ambient blues music running through her mind. She was not that young and I could see the vestiges of the myriad piercing she no longer displayed. There was a robust authenticity to her gestures that was fierce. I saw a locked-in confidence that had jousted with older brothers. If she possessed any shyness or significant inhibitions there was an invisible space under her bearing where they lived.


The braid that encircled the crown of her head sat back and her remaining neck-length purple locks curled in a charmingly frizzy way. Her forehead sloped back and her chin had a delicate jut with a central dimple.   The skin of her face was oily and large pores on her nose could be seen at a distance.


She smiled easily and turned her head frequently as if to keep her anxiety about missing something in check. Over her sloped narrow shoulders a black, short sleeve hoodie sat and was zipped to a cleft below her chin created between the bulbous ends of her clavicles fastening to her sternum. Coffee created a full and engaging attachment to the moment for her and she moved elegantly on her thin short legs hugged by skinny jeans.   Measuring five foot two she wore checkered vans with no socks and had no desire to be taller.


At first I was shocked by the loving connection I felt for the striking tattoo. It was elaborately depicted encircling her deltoid and bicep like a sleeve. The colors brought faint murmurings to a voice deep inside me within a cellar where my secret muses arranged the topsoil. I leaned into my mixed emotions while I surveyed this splash of ink on a beautiful woman. It was like I was seeing one of Banksy’s grand spectacles. I caught my half-breed judgments between flights. I thought about a naked climb up from my own repressed authenticity. I burned with a desire to touch and caress the ink that slept in her dermis. The firmament of her bearing projected a poetic announcement of an inner self that was real and fastidious. It was assembled compassionately by her eyes and took into account the parts that grew stronger after the storm pulled her apart.


She floated seamlessly between taking orders and preparing beverages. None of the other baristas did both. If she took an order and another girl served a sub-optimal product, prompting a complaint, she revised it herself with a buoyancy that congratulated the customer’s discerning ability to uncover subtle flaws. She owned the production of imperfection. She possessed the beauty of a certain resolve that borrows a look askance in a manner that pulls in just the right light.


I ordered a blonde roast and it was not piping hot out of the dispenser. I knew that with cream in it I would be disappointed. As I handed the cup back to her, she scolded the air around herself for believing coffee from that source would be suitable. There was a resin within her that brought out a shade in her cheeks reminding me of the comfort I felt while eating my grandmother’s pastina with butter.


She took my cup and placed it on a back counter where it could be ignored while she made haste with a fresh pour-over. She crossed her arm over her mouth blocking a gentle cough in a way that was almost seductive. I watched her delicate hands while she held the steel pitcher of boiling water with its long spout. She applied the steaming liquid to the fragrant grounds in the paper filter sitting inside the cone. She waived the metallic spout like she was watering a flower that needed nurturing more than water. Steam rose and I observed the brown liquid hugging the sides of the glass receptacle.


Voices collided throughout the café.   Howlin’ Wolf’s gravely rantings floated over the tabletops lamenting a distant loss within the cold pines. A steady flow of customers entered and most left after receiving their orders.


The girl with the purple hair poured the deep roasted liquid into a fresh cup for me. I heard her yell:

“Fresh blonde pour-over.”


She handed me the hot coffee through chocolate brown eyes surrounded by her bold black frames.   Those horn-rims hugged the contours of her definitive personality. The lenses of her glasses magnified her augmented lashes. Her unbroken eye contact and authentic smile told me she was one for stark contrasts. Passion lives in sustained glances and doesn’t noticeably display timid embarrassment. She held my gaze in a way that compelled me to wait until I could take a small piece of her with me.


I walked over and sat at the table where I had left my possessions. A window behind me projected out onto the front of my parked Escalade. A puckered dent in the front passenger bumper smiled at me and I laughed back at it. The gray Oregon sky stood like a painting outside.












The Soul is in the Skin of the Walls

 There is another dream. It “is existing” right now. This is different from “it exists” now.


I set about continuing to flash a light into all the corridors of my dreams even after I am awake. I cannot stress the immediacy and urgency of pushing all of me, conscious, unconscious, all the parts of me soon to be dead, and the parts burning to be alive, into the present tense. If I wander, in the missteps of my writing, into a retrogressive tense or peer into the past, please correct me.


Please correct me now. And don’t forget to check and proofread for my feet are meanderers. My mind strips the moment away little by little in its resistance to acceptance and soon all I can set down in little black lines on the absorptive blotter of the white page are regrets from the past. At least I am thinking straight about what I can do and not what I could or did do. The “did do’s” are not part of this at all. I hope.


The pulse of a blinking searchlight, always blinking to remind me that it is alive to only the present and not trained into a past moment, establishes a cone of awareness in the corners where fleet footed motivations evade me.


The light peels back old paint and exposes the ghost of a soul. Now don’t get too excited or concerned about where I am going with this. I already told you this is meant to harness a blisteringly painful awareness of a section of stolen time that normally cannot be perceived. I think I made that clear when I pushed the present tense into a realm where people just don’t pay a lick of attention.


This is all very complicated and my mind in its tennis match between now and then falters in its mindfulness, yet when I see the now, the gods storm in at a hat’s drop. And then it’s over. It’s easy to miss. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t like to miss these things. I’ve trained the searchlight.


I can just go ahead and say it. This all really came to a head after a recent death. No matter how mature I think I am, I cannot reconcile death. How can I? It is a complete extinguishing of the moment for another person, often suddenly without warning, in the middle of the night, during sex, on the ski slopes, floating on a glass-bottomed boat in Mexico….


The Stoics say to wake up and prepare for the worst possible occurrences.   This includes death, a natural event that is really not that different from the flux all around me. Leaves brown and crumble, apples fall and rot, worms are stepped on, dogs run in front of cars, bullets find crucial arteries,  nourishing coronary vessels occlude, phrenic nerves fail to raise the diaphragm…



She was in her house with two of my kids there. Like a stone from the sky she fell into a pewter tub in the middle of the night. I think she dented the tub with her head and never woke up. It feels like that could be in a comic book. There is a dark animation to the cartoon I construct to distance myself from blame.


I loved her. Shit. There I go with the past tense again. Saying I loved her means I don’t love her now and that’s not necessarily true. Can love finally arrive after death? That is the part about her not being here. I go back into the past when I felt love then I start thinking about how it all fell apart and the contempt set in. Then, next thing, the past is on me like a cloudburst and I’m swimming in the morass of the past with the sharks and then I’m staring at the double rows of teeth as fear grips me and then I’m afraid to even go in the water at all.


So where is my searchlight? And why does my waking state feel like a dream? Everything changed suddenly and during that night when her soul stole away a curtain dropped quickly onto the stage in the middle of the performance.


So think about it. Everyone is asleep. She gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and after an agonizing six seconds of crushing chest pressure, she loses consciousness and falls into the grey metallic tub dead. The dog whimpers and climbs in there with her and nestles by her side until my daughter finds her the next morning.


So now this is where I lose my mind. Where did she go? I’m not saying I miss her, but I was attached for quite a while and we’re not talking just an engine shut down or a mollusk drying up in the sun, this is the most precious section of animated love connected to everyone and to God alive and vibrant with the sun and the moon bolstering the energy and all the great depths of the oceans coursing in the bloodstream with eons of pulsing consciousness thriving inside with relentless expression more powerful than the pull of a thousand horses or the roars of all the massive mammals populating the planet captured in a captivating serving of humanness unique within billions and alive just yesterday and now vaporized into nothingness?..


So then a friend of mine offers that she is living in the walls. Just sort of clinging to the exterior of the paint and floating around sifting her smell onto family, knocking over knick-knacks, lighting random candles and spooking everyone into believing they are becoming delusional.


Then I really start to think in an unknowing way with my heart. I say to myself, Ok, just accept this as a random fact, Horatio, because there is more to heaven and earth than I dreamt in your philosophy. I like that quote. It helps me to accept: there are ghosts residing in the wall’s lamellar layers still expressing feeling in the painted walls.


That is quite a statement. I’ve always heard in parlors of gossip that the walls have ears, but this? Then, that means every new paint job traps a new soul, especially when the house is sold after a death, and so, there is this grab-bag of trapped ghosts in the layers of paint like a brick of organ meats in deli head-cheese.   I know it sounds crazy. I also have lost quite a bit of faith in science, plus I’ve heard this from more than one source and I can never argue with what I, myself, have seen.


I say “never” after “I can” not because I take “never” literally; I do this as a bulwark against the past encroaching upon “I can.” Without vigilance I drift into complacent “has-beens.”  Where the hell is that searchlight?


The smells and voices that were once thought to be hallucinations leave their true stamp even to those with prominently cultured outward dwelling perceptions.


My friends with schizophrenia, manic episodes, Tourettes and OCD take all perceptions as important. Lean into every stimulus and believe absurd connections. That is what they say.   When every perception is crucial, then nothing is crucial and connections become an insane playground. I might be venturing close to this but I am really only taking one potentially insane idea and blending it in.   This could be construed as progress.


What I’m referring to is not as simple as a hallucination.   It is a type of conjuring. Not those in the modern multiplex grindhouses. The fashionably creepy newsreels with found footage and professional hunters stalking the spirit realm, no, they turn out another recycled cotton candy product, haphazardly pieced together with hackneyed lore by committee, known today as sophomoric new millennial pre-post horror. What I’m talking about is none of that, nor can it approach it in the level of pure banality displayed.


The fact is, she is in the walls and the only way to cover her voice is to apply new paint. Even then she becomes a muted trumpet underwater as the school of fish in the tank nearby turn from turquoise to ruthenium gray.


The tendency she exerts will remain and continue to look out from behind the eyes of the oil portraits.  When her will exerts itself, beyond the limitations imposed on her soul, a heart shaped balloon will suddenly be caught with a resounding skid in the arms of a no longer revolving ceiling fan. And, as if that weren’t enough, the dog will also attempt to dig under the laundry room sink and rummage through crumbs on the pantry floor feeling a light scratch on his ear while expecting the can opener to unlock a cylinder of wet food.


The fact that she is still in the house cannot be denied.


If another person suggests I am like an onion peeling back the layers I will scream. So what if I believe souls can reside in the fastidious lamellae of the painted walls? Like the morphology of bone, a circular crust develops in the wall near heat sources where fire creates a warming of the knot-holes in the painted wood enveloping virulent vestiges of a soul which can now hide in the prison cell of its own lacuna.


Do you follow how death happens in the past but the imprisonment of a soul’s remains occurs now?   This incarceration does not have to be painful, rather an advanced burrowing leads towards a new celestial molecular growth that bypasses ordinary biology and the bloodstream while pondering its persistent attachment to all left behind like a virus stirring along the steps of an insect.


It doesn’t have to painful but I believe it can be.


No matter how much of a positive spin I apply to this I am mercilessly assaulted by an unassailable sadness. The wiles of what still exists in the cracks and interstices of the walls around me unfurl a surreal flag.   Sometimes this is imperceptible in the grandiose moment and I must hold fast that perception is relative and subjective and tinged by belief.


In the desperate hours that do not allow for seeing, the walls become blank and translucent like a gossamer nightshirt barely hiding the most supple breasts imaginable.


At precisely this time my obsessive thoughts derive their repose in the milk of intoxicants and that part removed from my will comes to possess a positive stroke of genius for craving the forbidden.


Then it opens up.


This is the golden fragment of time, fleeting in its unfathomable shyness.   A moment so difficult to see, yet, also prone to being exposed, in the realm of the right mindfulness, when the cone of the searchlight traps a sound born of a certain color or maybe a crevice in the attic nursing a leak softens into an inhibited pronouncement of that which is hiding within.


An air of vanquished opportunity relishing release.


A soul broadly pinned like a butterfly to the padded white expanse of a new limiting science that no one can explain.


The walls become a new celluloid hide; a voracious skin holding the stunted fantastical insubordinate desires existing in the wildness of frustration.


This deep-rooted failure turns back a melting clock after the bloodsmother and every itch becomes a tick inside the malleable clock of a tortured purgatory.


Nonetheless, the occasional novel explosions come through the dense layers and pile up quickly and in my heart.

I can’t believe latex paint solves anything.


Then there are the filigreed lampshades that feel like skin burgeoning out with the soul’s latticework.   Drapes hanging like unspooled threads of flesh in silken rivulets like a reflective pool.


There is a stifling understanding boxed in everywhere when a soul dissipates and this imprisoning allows only drips from the skins fallow tears to haunt other’s thoughts.


All the while the inhabitants of the house left behind sleepwalk through the mist while the searing moonlight preoccupies the same curtains and steals into the low-lit bulbs.


Not even the sheets and the whispers of warm, alive, skin abrading the soft bed covers are protected from the silent sting of the soul’s permeating insinuations into the distorted senses that drive the bereaved indoors.


No matter how hard I push into the now-moment there is no way to comprehend the straight-jacket of disembodiment a soul chisels against while struggling to reopen lines into the animated world.


It could be coming from ten thousand years ago or from a sand castle on Mars. What do I know? I do know for sure, that as I continue to push my own rock and become less able to even begin to break down the afterlife, all the rest of my knowledge falls into a dust bin while I look out at the basketball sun bobbing on the horizon and simply say with great convincing gravity: I don’t know.





Smog and Menstrual Blood


“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

Dylan Thomas



During my sleep that night and while I was waking up, I felt something erasing. The unexpected erasure of a glimpse into a future that was otherwise indelible. Everything gotten and all that was going to come was taken away. I saw cancelled eyes. Someone’s interior was missing.


It happened inside of dream logic. I believed I was having many recurrent images and sensations over many years.   Something was playing interference with my last dream before awakening.   This dream tricked time into a surreal elongation while I dreamt it. Like a phantasmagorical hall of mirrors the dream itself multiplied my perceptions. It felt like a repetition over my whole life. It was true I only had this mischievous dream during sleep once.   Through the magnitude of imagined multiplication I knew something vital had changed.


Within this state I felt offputtingly calm and sedate. It was the pre-awakening phase and I was transitioning into my arousing consciousness. I felt the sensation of dread one experiences when the dream carries an overwhelming sense of being real. My awareness had not yet peaked up above the Sandman’s cloud enough to realize that I was not on the firm soil of reality.


I was in an unfamiliar place where several cars were parked. There was a hillside with residential homes all around and cars were stacked up along the road and in a wide driveway.   I noticed that two nearby houses belonged to neighbors I recognized from years ago.  Oddly, the driveway with cars led to the property belonging to my ex-wife; but her house was not there.


Many people I knew gathered on this vast slopped lawn. Fellow medical students from the past, high school friends, football teammates, colleagues from work, recent acquaintances, mentors, professors, together with their dogs interacting normally. Few of these people had ever met one another. This was a group that could never mix. Now, in the morning mist of a dream, these beings were stuck together out of time.


They stood and walked on this plot of grass drinking beer, pitching footballs and tossing tennis balls for the dogs.   The activity all took place where a house once stood.   Now, while dogs ran and jousted, a view opened up and laid bare a limitless expanse to the horizon. Every obstructing structure to the west was removed.   The cascade mountains and the ocean were now visible from a densely populated location in the Portland suburbs.


Neighbors stood outside their homes. I recognized them all. Each one had lost weight. They were all emaciated and gaunt, diseased and cancerous appearing.  It was a global failure to thrive in this community alcove. They stood motionless all absorbed in the activity on the great lawn. All the neighbors, in their apparent state of starvation and terminal wasting, remained fixed in a state of ramrod-straight posture smiling and waving while making unbroken eye contact with me.


I pondered the impossible view. I saw a great vacancy.   There was an opening where it did not belong. The sky changed to an ox-blood color. The mountains in the western cascade were abutting the ocean and I could see waves licking the snowcaps. The sky kept changing color. I felt warm and I began to sweat.

I noticed that three of the cars in the driveway belonged to my children.   Staring straight ahead each child was sitting in the driver’s seat in his or her respective vehicle. None of them acknowledged me or made eye contact. Their skin looked synthetic with a plastic sheen. They were crash dummies.


Suddenly, and as the sky changed, the dogs stopped performing their antics and became still as gargoyles. Tongues out, these animals were captured in stop-motion freeze-frame while visible warm air circulated through their snouts into the bracing atmosphere. The guests, continued walking and talking as if the world, to them, was unfurling in a casually unconscious state of normalcy.  It seemed I was the only perceiver of bizarre alterations in reality.


The mahogany sky expressed creases and folds of gray and Alaskan blue. Light penetrated the sides of my view as street lamps turned on in the darkening mid-morning. It was an eclipse by a low-hanging moon obstructing logic and reason, stretching a tarp of sadness over hope.


Eras blended bringing unfamiliar souls together to ease the dream towards its tragic refrain.  A soul has left the present moment’s grasp opening a crevasse into time’s loop ushering in an alternate hypnopompic reality. Before attempting to cope, dreams offer alternate explanations where elastic, volatile versions of truth set the heart down slowly into the waiting abyss of loss.


The arc lamps brightened as the eclipse propagated darkness. One of the neighbor’s homes was constructed entirely of Italian-style stone. The owner, with his skin hugging the bones of his face like a stocking, eyes missing, was standing near his garage. One wing of his house was deconstructed with the outer stonework absent and the naked frame exposing a skeleton of wood. I peered into his living room.   His wife, vanishingly thin was standing unclothed and reading a magazine. He stood proudly in front of his home oblivious to the open-heart rendering of his interior and his unclad wife. All around the interior while his spouse stood motionless, furniture lay scattered and toppled over in a kinetic storm of slow-motion movement.   The insides of the house were about to hemorrhage into the open spaces of the growing horizon.



At the edge of the home’s exposed wing a worker kneeled.   He swung his arm in an arc of motion simulating hammer blows onto a strip of bare wood. There were no tools or nails, nor signs of hardware, just this man dressed in prison-striped overalls, focused and sturdy in his posture, swinging an invisible hammer. He was the only person nearby who was not in the throes of vanishing emaciation.  His arm bounced with each swing like he was holding an inflatable child’s mallet. The raw wood, chalky like desert bone started to crumble as his invisible swings continued.


There was not a shadow or cloud anywhere. The noon low light, operating with an absent sun and the moon still rising into the red-rock sky, chiseled angles into all life forms. The real became statuesque. All was frozen.   Beings and animals were sculpture. A thudding sound reported from the blows of the invisible hammer. A being was rubbed out. A life was over. A thudding continued incessantly transforming into a buzzing sound. I was then awakened by the buzzing of a phone call.




It was a call from an unfamiliar number that hung up before I could answer. Then a text message:

“Dad, answer, call me quick, it’s an emergency.”

I dialed the number.

“Dad Mom is dead.”

I heard my son in the background

“Dad Mom is fucking dead, hurry, please! Come quickly.”




A young woman wakes up with her boyfriend next to her. She is in her mother’s house, in the spare bedroom enjoying time away from Los Angeles and work. She wakes up and watches the calm breath rising in an out of him. His young wisps of beard, untrained in the art of abrasion, gently shift with each breath. She kisses him and wonders if he will remember the gesture.


After putting on her robe she walks to the kitchen to make coffee. It is eleven thirty in the morning. The television in the living room is on. An empty wine glass with lipstick on the rim sits alone in the sink. It is now almost noon. Where is her mother? Where is the dog?


She walks to her mother’s bedroom and sees the door ajar. Inside the room, the bed is empty.   The sheets are in pointed, edgy unmade piles that only restless sleep creates. The bathroom door is wide open and peering around the corner she sees a foot protruding from the bathtub with toes pointed down.   There is no water in the tub.









A muffled scream

Drops of black blood

Smudged on the tile

Skin torn on the pewter tub

Dry bristles of black-rooted hair

Stalks of jagged hate

Kiss the bottom of the drain


A deafening scream assails the house. Her boyfriend runs. She is in the bathtub cradling her cold bruised mother’s cheek in her hands. There is no reframing this reality. This is no parallel universe found in the seams of a meditation. No one is dreaming.


It felt like there would be no more sunlight. The room was drained of all hope. The dog was also in the tub at her feet. He had been there the whole night and morning, lying hungry and thirsty, unable to leave what was no longer there for him.


Tears drained down her cheeks and her boyfriend’s eyes welled up. He went to embrace her but she pushed him away. She kept shaking her mother’s head trying to wake her up.


There had to be a way, a way to still connect and find out what happened or at least say goodbye but she was not ready to say goodbye never imagined she could be in a cold gray tub with morose purple cheeks in her hands instead of the bright morning eyes of her mother asking the same invasive questions that made her blush only now she wished so much for the worst moments with her mother even a tortured toxic fight now would be like love caressing her torn-to-shreds regret about all those things she said but didn’t mean and the weeks of not talking followed by the hugs and all the secrets still hiding that she was going to share over the family time during upcoming dinners that would now never happen because all she was and all she would ever have with her mother was taken away this morning in a icy instant before she could gather everything she wanted to give back to her that now will have to sit like a deep fiery blacksmith’s hammer banging away inside her heartbeat in a sea of desert sadness that will only dissipate in small bits over a very long time.










I found myself sitting on her bed, in her bedroom, for the first time in five years with her dead body on a stretcher next to me. It was night. I watched her head resting motionless atop the expanded stretcher on wheels with cross hatched aluminum struts holding her up like cadaveric art on a horizontal easel.


It was an impossibly delicate task to stare at her motionless body. I was fighting off embattled feelings of sadness shock, relief and guilt-tinged anger. I got lost in the thought of her last gasps for air as if those desperate gulps toward ambient oxygen with her heart stopped were fueled by my hate.


Then a feeling of hope like a rainbow cataract watched for a rise in her breast. I was looking for only a few resourceful alveoli that had circumvented death’s march and were still capable of even a reflexive capture of residual wind that could sweeten her dark lips.


Beyond the darkened, ruthenium ceiling and the windows holding out the dense night, the gray sky seemed kind and gentle with a low moon as memories stacked upon each other and merged into dreams. The room was lit only by a moonlit glow bathing all the surfaces and angles of her face.


There were no longer any lines or expression marks. The spreading crows-feet that framed her eyes like fiery cracks in the pavement were gone. The skin that surrounded her coffee bean brown intimidating eyes was newly cemented over. I thought of a freshly repaired square of sidewalk cordoned off with the patch still wet with that soon to harden shield of gray paste that is so tempting to carve one’s initials into.


I wanted to carve a rose, draw it with a stick, on that soft patch free of the lines that seemed to bloom from an inner mine of intolerance while she was alive.

A blanket was pulled up to her neck. I only saw the lifeless face that in death carried with it a peace and posture of loving kindness I had not seen since the early days of our meeting. I pulled back the blanket to expose her feet and her right hand.


Now her body was front and center. The attitude she carried in life, heavy footed, bold, directly in your face, like a swarm of bees surrounded her, was all gone now. I expected something to drip from her mouth, a new smell, a fugitive memory still within her creating an aura or novel expression. No, it was all serious layers of death keeping the remains silent. What was in her was no longer there.   Her body was already buried.


It started to rain. Suddenly a hard rain caused incessant dripping from the gutters and drops attacked the windows like gunfire. The streets flooded suddenly and so rapidly that it seemed no rain was lost in the plant life and on the tops of trees.


She was bereft of that substance that permeates the body’s systems down to the molecular level; devoid of the fuse that animates the flower. She was turning into concrete; the rigors of death. The electric presence driven by the sun and the movements of waves had a short lamp-glow for her. The limp extremities no longer pondered movement.  The once hyper-sensate digits of her hand were still aligned perfectly. Phalanges buttressed against each other, accustomed to over stimulation now longing for a simple touch, to make a comical gesture, or to raise a finger in anger.


Like an angel she was fugitive spirit wondering why her pent-up warring feelings had an outlet no longer. What was so contiguous with her will, so connected, yet out of touch, with the corporeal world had no further material manifestation. Was she hovering somewhere in the room helpless to have a voice? There was no longer the ability to experience the hard smoothness of freshly blown glass or the abrasive pain of a skinned elbow. Pain and its attendant suffering became an abstract thought.   Bodily pleasures, now impossibilities, would soon be forgotten.


As her spirit moved toward eternity over the ensuing minutes and centuries, values and qualities applied to sensations would dwindle into dreams. At best the sensations would be palpable in the strange neural connections of vivid dreams. At worst, insensate nightmares would repeat where mammalian episodes became locked away in an unconscious vault of the soul inaccessible and beyond reach for eternity.


I watched her now.  I thought of the last months of our marriage before the chaos struck. During life our eye contact had begun to elicit anxiety. Pieces of that anxiety were now part of a mist hanging in the air of the room.  We rarely slept together. In nighttime sleep she hid on her side with pillows around her head walling off her body. I tried, on some nights, to watch her sleep yet I rarely caught a glimpse of her true exposure. She guarded tightly what she refused to reveal. All was covert decay of self-image and loathing. Sometimes in sleep the myriad caverns where she hid her true expression opened briefly then quickly darkened.


I was the riser before dawn and so I turned in early at night. She climbed into bed while I was deep in dreams.   While she was just starting to fall into a deep sleep, I awakened and left. Pillows partitioned us in sleep and my dreams trudged as much distance as they could from hers while she found her hiding places where nocturnal anxieties were less corrosive than the hysteria of her days.


When I looked at her somber, elegant mouth, now closed, I thought of smog and menstrual blood. I stared at the soft skin. I thought of a flesh-colored stone. I stared at her Grace Kelly nose perfectly feminine with its upturned tip; the nose I fell in love with. Her eyes were relaxed and closed under lids lashed like trapdoors continuing to imprison the anger inside her.


She lay there, dry tongue put back into her mouth, with its bristles shriveled, plasma stopped on the tracks, no adrenaline to the heart, receptors no longer triggered by the third rail. A dense slowness occupied the air over her face. I thought of clogged sludge coagulated in every artery, vein, arteriole,, venule, capillary , and lymph vessel backed up like curdled milk as the evacuated lungs supinated in mid-expansion, collapsed and emptied themselves of life-giving air.


Her lungs were accustomed to intentionally inhaling smoke. I imagined smog still restlessly coursing through the corridors of her chest cavity smudging black stains like graffiti over the inner terrain of the body’ cityscape. Smoke dimmed the lights through life and dried up the menstrual blood while tears and hormones fought their battles.


I sat and contemplated her face in death. Youth was departing while beauty mounted a mature evolution. The body had bolstered itself and hormones tried to redefine and upgrade her being for a vacant future. I wondered how she was snatched off the planet hours ago. What did her mind think as she walked and fell into the empty bathtub. There was no mystery left in her face. The stone-polished texture of the expressionless skin around the apertures where the nostrils started their embargo of oxygen now seemed to announce an acceptance of her fate.


Turned over and repeated another way, those openings into her balanced, sculpted nasal passages, mourned the lack of airflow while the hidden spider-hairs inside stopped clinging to microscopic matter. Their job was done. The soft wind of respiration rested its sad hand and those two lonely openings became vacant caverns like all the rest.   There was no more hiding.


All the myriad jobs within her physiology, the flawless efficiencies, still far from being completely understood, were stunned into silence. How does such a precious and incomprehensibly complex system simply shut down? How is it possible that such a necessary entity, with such a fierce embrace of the power of consciousness, can disappear without mounting further rebellion? The mourning collective is out there in shock wondering. Is there not something left that is capable of some element of preservation? There must remain a small piece of what flees; something still to communicate with. It begs for supernatural reassurances.


How can there not be some neural circuit, an aspect of her soul, some tortured spiritual proboscis, a finger, a conjuring, an emanation that can rise up in demonstration countering back into the real world with the reserve and fight still left to connect with all those left behind staring off or holding their head in the grip of their disbelieving hands?


How can all the operators flee the scene at once? A soul with all its ideas and love and feelings and abstract contemplations tight-roped to a scientific clock comprised of biological efficiency cannot, with its paralyzed mainspring, shut off all that others can see connecting this spirit to the divine. Certainly there are cords and fibers and spiritual channels still working, unwilling to punch-out, unwilling to leave no trace, and allow the remaining forces of love to wring their hands in the dark.


I became paralyzed with these questions, unable to reconcile what has become a commonplace aspect of the cycle of life, yet death still stands in the distance unassailbly shrouded in the same confusion I felt as a child when I first contemplated it.


A lambent, ghoulish light continued to glow in the room. The moon was intentionally hiding. I was starting to experience bizarre overlapping sensations.

I heard the sounds of light, the smell of flowers became visible in the room’s glow. Smog painted the walls with her terminal darkness while blood dripped into the plaster cracks like a joker’s smile. My sensations exchanged data with emotions and an uncoiling happened releasing my insides into the stillness that was too much for the moment to hold behind its dam.


Swelling hopes for the past met their grief-stricken progeny now kneeling in pain. The tightrope connecting these two worlds slackened. There would always be an obscure connection but it was too painful for these dueling worlds to co-exist and see each other while time stopped.


Overtures of romance and kinship

Fought through the growling mob

Where tortured feelings

Strike at the balance-wall

While unfulfilled promises

Fight through the barricades

Bombing desires

And regrets

With blows of broken glass


Billowing up

And finding soft peace

In the acceptance of surrender


I made my amends to her ghost. The floor vibrated under my feet. My boots with thick socks inside felt caught in marshlands and mossy waters. The carpet sunk under me. I was losing my footing. I saw an hourglass. There were iridescent colors of coral and abalone in the sand collected on the bottom.


I took one last look at her mortal countenance. There was a constitutional hardness to her face that added to the emotionless silence left in the room. I felt the hallowed caverns she began to construct while she was alive. Those places that served as her dark refuge. I saw the jagged rocks and bear-crawled over the prayer-stones to find those private rooms where she started to die, a little at a time, while she was still alive. The spaces she might have found solace in where cell by cell she decomposed slowly while waking, slower while sleeping. A process no one else noticed. I tried to find those secret places, see them and say another prayer and maybe now, she had left all those entirely and had no reason to ever return.




The Cartographer’s Obsession

A Stream of Unconsciousness


This is the last page in my journal. The last chance I have to say this. Today is a day to thrive, to live, to live in the moment, not just talk about living in the moment, a day to burn the past from photographs and stop the delusions about the future dead in their tracks. Put a stop to the madness of fantasy. Fantasies, all fantasies, all constructed by a mind that wishes fervently yet fantasizes failure. Fantasies that deconstruct and detonate the now; fantasies that lead me to believe the lies I trot out for approval.   This is the only day I have. Not one more. The only moment I have is now, the fleeting now that is always gone and expired and dead to my awareness that wants to stick on the now then does a double take choosing to look back or onward. Right now this moment is sealed with ink poured onto my last page, out of my pen, held in my hand, emblazoned on the page like a blood-stamp on a missive describing the last day of my life. This is the last day of my life. The music crowds closer filling my ears with caresses of soft colors the way music does. I don’t want to hear words, or talk anymore, just write the truth that exposes the fantasies and reveal the false fronts that are everywhere trying to crowd in and the music is all I will let close while the words spill out of me. The music is the warm water in a baby’s first bath poured onto my face. My last day is a perfect moment for the baby’s first bath, splashed like a baptism that shows the way and opens my eyes to deep imprints I make in the snow of this very moment. I need this ushered in by the spectacle of God realizing that though it may be my last day there is still room to be born and splashed awake.   Awakened to the moment that is now, one that I never saw in the first place.  What about this snow? The world is like snow piled up on itself and when I want to get somewhere I cannot float above it. So I sink into deep ruts making my own canyons and crevasses. Momentous footprints are burned and scalded into the snow of new thought. The vast white expanse is a tabula rasa viewed from a helicopter. The hovering being of my true self watching from above, from the side even from below all at once debating how to plant the footfalls of an authentic me into this fluffy façade of snow that coats and hides and deceives the firmament boiling up beneath. Ideas mined from the boiling firmament. The land that fractured and rose up out of the ocean when the earth split long before consciousness paraded along the boulevards leading to this last day. This day, the only day that I have to write everything on the very last page of my journal opens itself to me like a hand from the sky guiding me over treacherous terrain.  It is feeling less like a blood-stamp and more like blood itself from my marrow embraced and held up and poured with my being, then put onto the page. What about this ocean? It all started there, it is all tied to the ocean. It is how the love of water transcends all hate and nothingness.  The events of my life cling together like a frightened allegory. Unlikely verses tangle with history. Sentences and stanzas couple and copulate their way into the weaver’s den knitting together artifacts inside the factory. Ousted islands of suspicion take over the cartographer’s obsession. Women arrive strumming their harps like inadvertent vivisectionists capturing the spurting blood inside lanterns with false warnings. The glow of an enticing future captured in blood. The stanzas of the allegory are recited in sections like canopied archipelagos strung together in a maze. Prisoners of thought resolve out of resentments on these islands working the cast-iron wheels spinning the sacred thread of the chrysalis. My flights of fantasy rear up and take away my future, distort the ultimate reality with delusional outcomes that I create and swear by until the future arrives and I am not there to experience it. False warnings reluctantly arrive. The moment sprouts dove’s wings for that eternal moment then it joins the hive. My graceful beliefs about enjoying the truth of the moment are kidnapped and held hostage, clawed at and torn to shreds by a fantasy that believes in failure. I think fantasies will merge with the storefront of the moment and then the world throws itself at me. The kitchen sink: the myriad events, children born to be afflicted. People, events, weather, traffic, attitudes, drumrolls, marches, television fabrications, advertising insults to intelligence, PT Barnum with the world’s stage designed to deceive under the confidence of false truths. All the world’s confidence men descend onto a thirty-second advertisement during the super bowl. The opportunity to completely close off a global population from the moment with a hook into desire created through years of bait and switch, falsified realities and turnstiles leading to dire consequences of loss. The scam is the game. The con is the truth of the scam with reality turned on its head. Distorted reality served in a delicious arrangement festooned with the accouterments that unleash desire. There is a settlement I must come to in my own mind, to trade away the past’s tendency to fold into my awareness while the possibilities of what is yet to come crowd in from another side, both conspiring to distort my singular vision of the moment. I have the desire to turn the moment into a culture. A village of sacred visions added and pooled siphoning delicate awareness and top-tier attention pressed up against the glass of the moment, feeling the fog of my breath on the tangible aspects of the precariously exposed and fleeting moment. Sea-doors of driftwood and bronze floating on the serrated waves opening into deep attachments of cylindrical tubes leading down like ocean tunnels carved into the deep sea leading down into the abyss occupied by bizarre creatures with absurd tentacles pressing up against the transparent walls like mimes. There is no breath only salt crusted onto the glass barrier with inflammation mounting on the interior of this passageway to and from the depths. Soon this collection of sea-organs reach the top and sprout out of the waves like a whale’s blow hole conceding a kaleidoscopic arcade out of the trap-door. Pulsing into the open air like music harnessing the origin of sound from the electric eel. A harpsichord accustomed to playing underwater unleashed into the howling night lanced by lightening strikes and driven by the resounding bass drum of thunder. The fanfare encourages waves of exploding amphibious life; aggregates shot up and raining down now like grenades puncturing the water’s glass shield, unbuttoning the closure between history and myth. All the while schooners with giant nets and bearded captains wearing rain hoods lavish their time searching while fighting off the flying frogs that now festoon the masts and expanses of the ship’s sails weighing down the deck with frog carcasses fileted open with viscera pinned down and exposed to the sunlight in the manner of a middle school science project. The sailors and deck hands bail frogs with buckets as the ship begins to sink under the weight of amphibious cadavers, and now sharks sidle up to the starboard and port flanks with their jaws gleaming against then velvet sky. Dead frog are systematically machined into paste by the predatory fish and this chum draws schools of other curious ocean life and all begin to circle the ship and smell the occupants of the schooner and hold them hostage. And so I arrive at the state of pure desire-less joy, the state of my soul just before death.  It is what I crave daily and not the illusion telling me that either the regrettable past or the anxiety-provoking future is actually the real now. That is a falsity my brain creates to make me want; to increase desire and to instill desire for the unobtainable. Why do I rush like an impatient child? Running to and fro between states of instant gratification born inside to cover up insecurity and paltry self-worth leading to more congestion and confusion. Traffic, impediments, obstacles, people in my way, lines, delays, airport check-in counters, rush-hour grocery lines, stadium parking lots, doctor’s and dentist’s offices all conceal the moment, blur the moment into a distressing fantasy. The logic that plays into my view of future events assumes the posture of failure and winds itself up like a toy pointed to march straight at a wall, ramming and banging itself against the wall, not realizing the wall is there at all, until its wind-up charge is exhausted. This toy hears the moment calling, this marching drummer hears the far-away instructions pulled from deep in the unconscious part of my mind devoted to failure and loss and focused on running out of time and coming up short and saying the wrong thing all the while losing the love of a queen who lives in the invested moment that I have trouble locating.

The Demolished Surgeon

I walked out of a meeting today and stood transfixed in the parking lot watching an excavator tear down a house across the street.   Once I saw the scene I couldn’t move.   I was unable to lift my foot for another step.   The base of the excavator on its rolling conveyor leaned and tilted atop a seven-foot pile of splintered wood and debris.


Its giant frontal jaws on the articulated arm reached and extended with its serrated mouth open like a fabricated industrial tyrannosaurus attacking the body, walls and roof of the house.   Within minutes jagged remnants of splintered wood, and shards of glass, along with the entire roof in one segment, were dragged  mercilessly, crumbling to the ground.   The operator of the construction vehicle was serenely positioned at the controls working calmly like he was sitting at a computer.


I felt unable to avert my eyes.   There were components of my life in that house.   Though I had no relationship with the residence I felt like inner secrets from my past were on display here in a slow-motion calamity being warmed by the sun.   I witnessed pieces of my failed marriage splintering into oblivion.


As the open-toothed bucket on the attacking arm of the wrecking apparatus pulled the roof off in one piece,  I felt a memory of sadness and an inner sense of shame generated from abandoning my medical practice suddenly four years ago.


It was a warm summer Monday morning four years ago.   I was driving into Portland from the Goldendale ranch where I spent the entire weekend drunk.   I drank excessively and continuously every weekend, and most weekday evenings.   It was the unbroken alcohol consumption that weekend that put me into a toxic state of withdrawal with a pernicious case of the jitters.  I was headed into a full day of surgery.   I just couldn’t do it.   I had done it many times before but this morning something had changed.    I was seized by a whole new impulse and state of mind.   Years of hiding and emotional distance suddenly came into my awareness with such acuity that I became compelled,  with no doubt,  to walk away from medicine and heal myself.   That morning I threw away a surgical practice I built up compulsively while sacrificing every other aspect of my life for fifteen years.   This moment of clarity told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was beyond choice and already in mid-departure from the life I had built for myself.


I continued to stare at this scene of demolition before me as if each cracked beam and crushed sheet of dry wall were elemental components of my past life.  The excavator’s jaws crushed through the wooden studs and the tensely adherent stabilizing elements of the frame while crushing sheet rock and shattering glass.   I felt my vision turn inward and clutch onto that Monday morning again where the sun drenched my intense hangover while I drove towards Portland.   I recalled,  like it was a daylight dream,  the sensation of truly having enough of a profession that separated me from my soulful inner life.

I felt splinters from that house being released by the demolition crew like they were alive piercing my flanks and charging my bloodstream with an adrenaline load that beat the musculature of my heart at the cellular level.   The sensation was the same feeling I had that Monday morning when I called my operating room nurse and informed her of my intentions.


My mind was now split between a dream state and the here and now.   Planks, shreds of broken wood drifted into the rays of sun, mixing with the powerful autumn reds that dominated the color palette of the street.  The walls of the house were collapsing along the sides of my vision while window frames with crushed glass like gemstones sparkled in the glare and reflected back at me memories of earnest self-destruction.   As the jaws of the excavator’s bucket savagely tore into the sidewalls after the roof was off, I devoured myself in thoughts of self-sabotage that I never believed I was capable of.   These thoughts all crowded in and came alive with a hidden sadness that was quickly overshadowed by current feelings of extreme joy in this very moment upon witnessing the final stages of the home’s degradation.


I now imagined myself inside the remains of the crumbling residence as a human wrecking ball.   The drama of the final stages of collapse brought forth, in my mind, a litany of unhealthy relationships.   I stood within the chaos,  confused yet awestruck,  firmly entrenched on the foundation surrounded by scattered hemlock and oak beams and plaster-rock, feeling a drenching spirit of love lost, then gained, and lost again, then gained again, always lost in the end.   The firmament under my feet  then began to sink like quick-sand and the pick-ax,  that tool of destruction in my hand,  suddenly floated away like a child’s kite let go.


I gathered myself and consciously returned to the parking lot intently witnessing the spectacle like the information I was taking in was vital to my life. Now in the final stages the excavator rolled and snapped on an increasing mountain of debris, tilting and threatening to topple,  its military-grade base, like a tank, securing the entire apparatus on this unstable platform of splintered wood and shattered memories.


A friend from the meeting joined me and laughed at how absorbed I was in this destructive spectacle.   Soon he was frozen in place, focused, in the moment, with a desire to operate this mechanical demolition tool.   We wondered where the real wrecking ball was.


In the end there were no wasted motions.   This device never paused or hesitated.   Every gesture, and movement was deliberate and integral to the blasting feast upon the home’s core.   Another friend drove up and stopped, watching intently from his car with a smile on his face. He simply added:


“Hey, that’s just like my life.”  Chuckling after the comment.


I felt an intense dream-like sensation of gratitude realizing we were all connected and carrying very similar emotions inside us.

A Coffin Floating on the Ocean

My thoughts feel like they are in a casket floating on the ocean.  Random gifts and visitors.    An idea spawns itself.   A  sudden thought.   Often precious sometimes alarming.   Mined from a deep well underneath my awareness these traveling entities arrive with no willful prompting.   A crack of thunder hastens an electrical storm.   A trunk of hemlock falls into the playground of the sea drifting and fighting the tides.   Serrated waves saw the wood contouring it into shapes that defy nature.   Soon the smoothing sands and the sun’s glare polish the finished product that sits atop the bruising waves shaped as a coffin.   The waters calm.    A wave licks the  blonde sanded edge of the wood like a Golden Retriever preening.   Salt dries into a matte crystal trying to shine.  It can’t.  Clouded,  fluorescent with inclusions from the foggy depths, these salt precipitates grow like divine barnacles.  They are the oceans diamonds lighting the way.   This wooden box is a vehicle,  a transporter, a hollowed-out rough rider with knots like the heart’s fist punctuating the character of its enveloping carriage.   Souls are gathered along its course.  The random splash and gallop upon the crest’s flotsam juggles the spirits and ghosts of all those I once conversed with.   I recall meetings in dreams and hallucinations while deprived senses reached deep into the collective of childhood missions and mass idolization.   I stared into their eyes back then, felt their spirit move out of their body.  I adored,  I deified,  I regarded,  I esteemed,  I revered,  I glorified.  I even worshiped.   Worse I romanticized.  This piece of wood becomes a temporary home,  a formula for persistence where the infinite can laugh at oblivion.   Souls continue to be gathered along the way.   Beings holding passports that allow the simple taste of the continued material for a short while.  The finite ride toward the vast open oceanic spaces.   I opened my heart to those beings lost to material’s grasp.   Seemingly bereft of further communications, imprisoned inside the barren forest’s interior for centuries where time elapses into its bizarre compressions and elongations,  they found a way back.     Away from land,  away from civilization and human contact, where the oceans mammals and the gulls alternate the pulse that nourishes the spirits survival.   Trapped in this spiritual vortex voices are lofted into the fugitive winds.  Armed to travel great distances  they arrive randomly in my own unconscious intuitions hatching transitory thoughts that continue to haunt me with their unexpected arrival.

The Raw Sign of love

I spent the morning talking and sitting and reliving memories.  Intrusive memories. Memories of her printed on that gruesome day, into writing, into hope, into a calling where I woke up surprised and bedevilled by a morning calling from Paige caught in a fright: “Dad,!  Mom is dead.”

My son’s voice in the background, “Dad please come quick Mom is dead.”

 The statements were  expressed by adults , my kids are adults, they don’t really know that they are adults and they are mired in childhood, enmeshed in a permanent childhood that their mother created  and made seem like it would prolong well into adulthood, a sea, a volcano of love , an engorgement that overcame childhood, and made the child feel like childhood persists , it never ends, it is like a carousal with mom circulating above, and the never ending  perception of being cared for is like a God in and of itself.  A Goddess where choice ventures in and takes hold, yet mother still has a stranglehold where adult choice comes hard like the concrete stoops and stairs firmholding in their awestruck being.

I am enveloped  in the great turmoil of a husband leaving Karen.

Leaving the mother

She forgot who provided for her.

She became an undying mother who forgot her kids are kids and once they are gone she only has the mate whose started it all, and she forgot that deeply and made it her passion to continue her motherhood at all costs.  I resented her for not having gratitude or the basis of what made her motherhood flourish.  I hated her,  I hated her with no excuses.  I hated her for not acknowledging me as the provider and rewarding me sexually for my hard work.  I had a major fucking resentment and I wanted to cheat but I did not.

I still had my pillars of  belief and I felt strongly that she was many things to me: 

she was many things to me

I let the hate taint everything

I let my Italian emotions embroil her passions

I let hate disregard the good

We carried hate into a new level of incomprehensible love turned into a new latitude that any compass would redirect to a colony of ultimate hope. 


Fervor is rekindled faith and inwardly we both knew that merciless hostility was the raw sign of love.


My children’s mother.

The one who they only know

The one who disappointed me on so many levels.

The mother of my children

The one I disregarded



As the ideal that makes me unsafe


Disruptive to the nines

A codger

A pure Christian

A reluctant agnostic

A God fearing man

A surgeon

An athlete

A spokesman for AA

A hypocrite

A full-scale hater

A man who judges

A man who loves

A parent

A man who hates his plight

A spiritual man

A man who loves all women

A man who won’t take shit

 A man who erupts when it get to be too much

 A man turns around and loves who he hates

Because hate is the other side of love and it means love is  stronger than ever

In the end I am a man who is nothing

Be my friend or not I’m here as a man, here to be viewed and that’s it. 

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