Brok_n w_rds, brok_n sente_ces, brok_n thoughts, brok_n peop_e.
Men and women wh_ wis_ to skim through lif_;
wh_ want to show ever_ thing to ever_ one;
wh_ need fast_r devic_s so th_t th_y may fill
in their blan_ spac_s wit_ status upd_tes.
A land of people wh_ hav_ forgotten th_t lif_ is short and
not mea_t to be skim_ed ; th_t lif_ is not about h_w man_
sentenc_s y_u read or things th_t y_u post.
Life is about how many times you slow down,
how many breaths you feel, how many
words you not only read, but taste.
Two metallic quarters absorb the sunlight
refracting through a thin store window
on Solano Avenue where the Ohlone’s
used to live. In the quarter’s center their
electrons heat up, excited by the window’s
open curtain and the noisy vibrations
waving in from the outside.
Cardboard slots on a poster that
says, ‘Your Support Saves Lives,’
hold the quarters in the air, just
below other lines that say,
‘Fighting blood cancers,’ and
‘Joshua: Leukemia survivor,’ and
‘Someday is today.’
His picture is like my picture, like
your picture, like the other pictures
of a human before they grow
old. But he is fading now, the poster
has been in the sun too long, and he
was born fifteen years ago, fifteen
years of war, one trillion dollars
on war, four trillion quarters on
war, fifteen years of war and some
more war and some more war, too.
Two quarters heating up, stuck, sticking
to that plastic poster with two quarters
that I take, put them in my pocket,
Joshua, I am sorry, two quarters aren’t enough
even a dollar won’t do
So I throw them in the City’s trash,
watch them sit on top of a pile
of coffee cups and compostable dog poop bags.
And walk away.
Ghin (novel excerpt)
My name is Ghin. I wrote this story. I lost the first three chapters (idiot!), but don’t worry: you don’t need to read them. They were just filled with all that contemporary literature stuff: sex, whips, snipers, God, sex, terror, spatulas, “love”, “light”, “sensitivity”, and so on. One of the chapters combined all of these modern-day miracle-sauces into one ginormous cocktail party starring the mayor of San Francisco and the mayor of Dallas glued together as a Siamese twin. Both mayors were drunk, sharing Stella beers, feeding them to each other as if they were feeding babies milk, and, behind them, stood God. He held a spatula, a corkscrew, and a Roman whip. It was love. I’m not sure how it ended, though. I wish I hadn’t lost that chapter. I’m guessing my mom found it and threw it away. She is always reorganizing my bedroom, sniffing around with her Swiffer, often while I’m sleeping. She wants me to write the next great American novel, like The Grapes of Wrath, or something, and I tell her that’s exactly what I’m working on, it’s just that there are more erotic toys mixed up in the Dust Bowl now.
I can’t complain too much about my mom. She did let me move back home after I quit my job. I was working as an environmental engineer for the State of California and I quit because they wanted me to help clean up the oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. Some dumbass oil pipeline had exploded and now it was my team’s job to clean it up. The people on my team came up with all kinds of solutions, but they didn’t dare propose the simplest solution of them all: Don’t. Install. Pipelines. Under. The. Ocean. No pipeline means no oil spill. DUH. Everyone in the office knew this, but everyone in the office wouldn’t dare propose such an idea, because everyone in the office had families to support.
We live in the age of whetted confusion. My mom liked that statement. She said, “Now you’re onto something.” Then she said, “Come eat your dinner. You’re looking too skinny,” which I was: I was down to 135 pounds, having weighed 160 eight years ago during freshman year of college. I’d lost 15 pounds in the last month alone. You can see where my cheek bone connects to my jawbone, and my ribs protrude almost through my shirt. It’s true: I’m withering away, stuck in my room, surrounded by high-school middle-class memorabilia, like all these spray-painted gold baseball trophies that everyone gets, even if you were just average like me, and this Britney Spears poster from 1997, the year of “Baby one more time.” My childhood room makes me think about my old apartment in San Francisco, a small one bedroom with a yellow and blue breakfast nook (it was very beautiful, really), where I broke up with my girlfriend, Erica, just before I quit my job. When I told Erica that I needed to be alone in order to pull the world out of darkness, she smiled at me and got naked. I looked away. I couldn’t look anymore. It hurt, it hurts, I said, we must not, we cannot, I said, and I still feel sick because I loved her. She lay down on the bed. I heard the bed squeak. I didn’t look. She might have been wide open. I said: “Restrain yourself, Erica. I will be back.” She laughed, then she started to cry, saying something about how she’d lost me because she couldn’t even get me into bed when she was naked, her beautiful smile, her big eyes, her gentle, inviting, warm body. I glanced at her, unknowingly, and then I lost control, and I suddenly jumped on her and we made love very quickly and then I felt bad again. She was still asleep when I left the apartment. She heard the door close. I could hear her get out of bed, although she didn’t come outside the apartment. She stayed in our room. She knew I was waiting outside, but she didn’t come out, so I left.
Living In a Tent In San Francisco
So tired. Breathe. There we go. Look outside. People walking. Try to stand. Can’t stand. Ceiling too short. Go outside? Can’t go outside. No where to go outside. Sit back. Try to think. Can’t think. Too tired. Drink. Can’t drink. No drink. Too tired. Close eyes. Try to dream. Can’t dream. Too tired. So sad. People walking. Try to sleep. Can’t sleep. Too loud. Walls thin. Sit up. Use bathroom. Can’t use bathroom. No bathroom. Look outside. Blues walking. Moving time. Same time. Try to stand. Can’t stand. Still tired. So tired. Breathe. There we go. Look outside. No one outside. Try to smile. Can’t smile. Try to stand. Can’t stand. Lie back. Breathe. Can’t breathe. Wait for help. No help. Try to remember. Can’t remember. Smile. Can’t smile.
no one speaks english
thank the gods
a homeless man, head down
did not buy a drink
or a bagel
he sits in the sun at a table
they don’t kick him out
still more languages come
a guitar is playing
a man is playing the guitar
he is in the other corner
no sunlight, only music
he is about sixty-five
close to my dad’s age
the homeless man wears Nike shoes
they are tied
he is talking now
God is a shout in the street
the homeless man is talking to himself,
to the window too.
it’s his reflection
it is more than his reflection
it is our reflection
I think I love San Francisco again
gentried but not ossified
the best and the worst
Atlas Coffee, Mission District, San Francisco, August 4th, 2018
The Man Who Built a Purple Pool (novel excerpt)
The next day Tom stood on cracked clay desert dirt, beyond which the landscape stretched out and disappeared underneath a sharp mountain range that cut the sky’s smoothness into sharp edges like jagged puzzle pieces. Jessie always liked puzzles. Her favorite was a 500 piece colorful Aladdin set because she loved the monkey, Abu. She knew all of the Aladdin songs and would annoy Tom with her constant singing of the songs and now Tom could hear the music. She’d play the songs over and over and only recently had she stopped playing the songs, ever since starting high school. But still she liked to put the puzzle together, and every year they’d put Abu together on Thanksgiving morning.
Tom missed her more each moment and wondered if the growing pain, the growing realization that she was gone, would ever subside. But the pain and realization were now settling in like a bowling ball on a soft mattress, sinking further down each moment, becoming a part of Tom’s normal thought so that everything he looked at began to morph into something associated with Jessie; into something Jessie was interested in.
He dragged his shoe across the desert ground and watched dust particles float up and disperse. Then he turned back toward downtown Vegas and looked at the Strip. He and Mr. Breckenridge needed help. They didn’t know how to build, so Tom had to find a way to hire Mark and Al to join the new school project. Mark knew everything about Las Vegas’s construction world – the people, the permits, the inspections, the fees – and Al would be there in the field day-to-day. Tom and Mr. Breckenridge needed help and Tom would offer Mark and Al a raise and a signing bonus and he hoped this was enough to convince them to join.
He rode three miles on Bus 28A from the new school site to the Strip and then walked up to the Hyatt and stopped outside the hotel’s gigantic diamond-shaped structure, where the hotel’s dark black windows glowed from the light that bounced off nearby hotels. Today the hotel seemed different and foreign and more permanent, and Tom thought about the last few days and realized that everything was different now, as if the last few days hadn’t really existed, as if they only existed to those outside of himself, even though Tom knew that today was real just like the rest.
He went into the parking garage, where Al stood holding a jackhammer. Al lifted the hammer as if it were a trophy, then smiled and said, “Ready for the big night tomorrow?”
“Huh?” Tom said.
“Yeah, Catherine. You know, my niece—come on now, cutie. You’re takin’ her out for a date.”
Tom couldn’t remember what Catherine looked like. He nodded his head and said, “Oh, yeah, cool,” and then stepped into the elevator.
“She’s coming to pick me up today after work. You talk to her then,” Al said, “Remember, I’m trusting that you’re a nice guy, just like I thought. Don’t let me down. Catherine, she’ll let me know if you’re nice.