Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Went to bed at midnight; a reasonable hour. Got up an hour later to jot down an idea for the story I'm writing. Several pages later, I returned to bed. It was at 5 am. This morning Kelly said  I was arguing with myself in my sleep. Not surprising. That's what writing is.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm mopping the kitchen and this tabby cat strolls in. "You Guillermo Lopez?" she says. "I heard you could help me out." I wring the mop out and keep mopping.

"You heard wrong, cat. I'm retired."

The cat says to me, "So why don't you start back up?" I shake my head.

"It was the forcible kind of retirement. I ain't authorized to do that no more." She twitches her tail, annoyed.

"Since when has that stopped you?" I slam the mop into the bucket. Filthy water splashes everywhere. She doesn't flinch, just keeps staring at me with these big golden eyes. I glare at her.

"Lemme get my coat," I say. Her ears flatten.

"A coat? You have gotten soft." She whirls around and bounds out the door. I go
after her. I had that feeling in my gut; like I was making a huge mistake. Aw, hell. I've been wrong before.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter comes and wakes me up. It has been a long sleep.

Sleeping, I confess, was much easier than coaxing rusting joints into action. The larger part of strength has gone but the memory of strength remains and that is of some use.

Snow falls like shattering champagne flutes. I brush it from my shoulders and the chill cuts my fingertips.

Conversations held while half-asleep blur into the dreams and the effort to parse the real from the imagined is seldom worth. I may not have said those things but in many cases I certainly could have.

I spoke to a brother who lost his twin; I spoke to a sister who lost her older sister.

I wondered who was dreaming the three of us.

It has been a long sleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Walking by the lake last night.  The smell of dirt, stagnant water, and horse poop.  In the chill air, it was almost pleasant.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Felled trees reveal rings of scorched bark from infernos past
and below the stump
the roots remain locked in their nursery stone
where seed had clung to split and crevice
until they grew through living rock to reach the soil

surrounding fields grow pretty with waving grasses in rich loam
to succumb to snowy blankets every winter before
and every winter after

Outside Noises Against Inside Walls

Outside noises against inside walls
shape the morning trudge
from bed to bath to breakfast
Until the corners of her mouth break like dawn
The only smile undiminished in the flourescent lights
Unfrayed among the cowards clinging to their duty

Electric Brain Cell Topical Storms

electric brain cell
topical storms
gnash their mitochondria
whilst decisions sit serene
in the eye untouched bemused

lighthouses came first
the jagged strands surrounding
rose from the seas
in reverance to the solemn structures

Departure Thrives In Morning

Departure thrives in morning
when the drowse still beads on our brows
like glistening dew on flower thorns

Regrets alike, real and imagined, gather
Somber in their traveling clothes

Goodbyes and promises to meet again
hover low like punctuation
waiting to make us into epilogues

A Near-Gone Scented Teacup Candle

a near-gone scented teacup candle
sputters in a cardboard cadence

cloying ginger tea leaf fragrance
clings to her hair still chestnut damp
from the monsoon shower an apothecary
of clouds rumbled onto her

hinges on the cabin door long ago
fell red death masked
and the door in last dance with it
now lies quantum in its frame
half-opened or half closed

he knocked anyway and waited
she shook her hair and turned
waved both beckon and permission
in one gesture wrought for him

in candle flickers he reached for her
fingers threading a loom of palms
and then with brief unwoven hand
she pinched the flame to sleep

Trinket Words She Hung Around My Neck

Trinket words she hung around my neck
glassy globes reflecting all the things
I wished she was but wasn't

Artisan apologies for a lifetime of weakness
a mnemonic sleight-of-hand smearing
luster over rusted empathy

She received me as a possession
reducing passion to pornography

Her gifts glittering brightest
before they shattered sphere by sphere
into cutting rains of silvered glass

I left her as she stared smiling down
into her thousand dim reflections

Her face every twinkling star
in a wine-red universe

Yellow Hawkweed Claims The Garden

Yellow hawkweed claims the garden
choking seedlings in their sleep

We'd fought them, once, spade and claw
clearing flowerbeds of strangling vines
revealing red and purple riches
that others envied but you refused to cut
Insisting nothing dead is beautiful

I agreed with you, in the end

Presented as you were
your hands folded, frozen buds
your face a snow lily
in a vase of polished wood

A Susurrus of Turning Pages

a susurrus of turning pages
wakes me when she reads each morning
her flurried fiction allergy
triggered by the world she woke to

"Care you nothing for waking life?"
I murmur from beneath
dawn-shields of blankets
and a pillow helm

"Only you," she says
and flips a page
"and the mirrors to the art I love."

I dreamt of nettle stings
and her honesty annoys me
"Nothing else? Suppose you one day wake with child?"

"Foolish man" her eyebrow arched
"our child shall be all those things."

I do not argue further
which she knows means I love her madly
and her mastery of worlds
bound and unbound

When We Turn To Little Things
Architects, we call ourselves, as we build
big bay windows to our minds
only to draw rich red velvet curtains across them
so peeking out we can deride passersby
for their ignorance of the splendors within

Designers, we call ourselves
as we blueprint and measure and trig our way
to another reflection in a city of mirrors

Sculptors, the title vainly clutched to our chest
as hammer and chisel carve out
the same crumbling letters to make
the same flaking words as everybody else

Clever, we decide at last
that we are alone to hide in the dark and pain
with our scars and despair

Clever, because if we ventured too far we would see
that so is everybody else

Clever, just like us

Love, Then, We Shared As Clear Water

Love, then, we shared as clear water from a stream
whose source unknown and destination hidden
satisfied our thirst each time we came
shuddering breaths and mouths dripping

That night you had to work and I got lost to see you
When I found my way to you a computer screen sat in for the fireplace
and I read data over your shoulder as
my hand stroked your breasts through your thin cotton shirt

We were not done becoming yet
and while we loved easily what was
neither knew the esoteric art of loving the person that did not yet exist

Because we could not see our stream
though our paths were parallel
You or I or the stream became an ocean
and hard to drink

And sunrise now does not reflect us in the water

Mornings do not find you warming naked
against my chest as we debate breakfast
or just making love to nourish other appetites

My hand stroking your breasts, gently, a question for the heart beneath

Mornings, now, find us both apart
alone with our answers
and the laughter of a stream
that has not yet found its ocean

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jazz & Hounds

Oscillating fans catch trombone blasts and
piano plinks
The machine breezes swish the notes
and buffet rhythms into the corners to tangle in the dog fur
Where in those corners
shed fur and past played music incubate
still growing like fingernails after death

Thursday, September 06, 2012

She swims in a vast ocean of letters and snares words for succor.  All her days are spent in the hunt.  All her nights are spent in the glow of a beach bonfire where she joins, rends, and builds entire worlds.

Monday, August 27, 2012

And when no suitable partner could be found he was wed to the sky.  He was given a house which contained a bedroom with no roof.  On clear nights he slept well.  When it rained, which was rare, he slept less well.

He decided he should be happy.  Many men had wives and many women had husbands but who could claim the sky as their own?  Who could claim to belong to the sky?

From time to time, threads of doubt would weave their way across his brow.  He would smooth them into his pillow at night and they would be gone by morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dearest Claire,

Your letter was brought to us by our manservant, Whitman, as Kelly and I were hunting the ptarmigan that occasion our estate.  O, fear not that I speak of literal ptarmigan, I would not have you think us cruel.  No, we dress up Leela (our loving but rather witless Bulle Terryer Dogg) in a vest of feathers and then chase her round the moor.  After a time, she realizes that she is not, in fact, a bird and returns with us to the manor.

It was our pleasure to attend your Commencement Ceremony.  It was a handsome ceremony indeed, as delightful and cordial as the liqueur we sipped throughout.  It was much more pleasant than the last commencement ceremony we attended (at that dreadful Upper Whitspinster's Academy).  That was held out-of-doors as well, but instead of chairs we sat upon marble columns that had been specially erected and then knocked down for the occasion.  It had all the grandeur of a pagan goat sacrifice, but those have been out of fashion for weeks, and the solemnity of the occasion trickled away like so much wasted goat blood.

And bravo to your administrators for such skilled herding of the students!  At Whitspinsters, the faculty had invoked an archaic taxonomy that placed the most intelligent students in the center of a sort of spiral that wound outwards as students of lesser aptitude made up the outside coils.  The end result was that the students who were able to understand and follow the basic directions to move towards the stage were unable to move at all as they were trapped in a sort of moat of buffoons.  This remarkably inefficient system, I understand, developed in ancient times and served to protect the more intelligent students from the Saxon raids that used to plague such Commencement Ceremonies.  The ruthless marauders would make off with pamphlets, shawls, folding chairs, and any vaguely congratulatory greeting card.  The envelopes they left behind, presumably because they lacked a postal system.

Sink me!  Leela has eaten her feather vest!  This will not bode well, as she has an imbalance of the humours that rend her all but senseless when ingesting avians or their spoor.  Birds, (being of the air,) cause her bile (corresponding to the element of the earth) to increase at such a prodigious rate that she risks expanding to the size of a wild yak.  Thus begins such a riotous frenzy of vomiting so forceful that all of us in the vicinity scramble to find immediate shelter.  After we emerge, we often find the projective force of Leela's internal heresy has launched her like a furry cannonball to a distance of a half-league or more.

I will soon press this letter into the tobacco-stained hands of our manservant, Whitman, and bade him speed it to you as quickly as he can.  Of course, there is always the risk that his boorish thoughts will turn to spirits, naps, or both, but all we can do is hope.  And perhaps I will dare to a bit unfashionable and offer a bit more of this goat's blood to the Great God Pan, that Whitman's feet be as swift as those of our Hirsute Cloven Master.

With Fondness,

House Lopez

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dear Friends,

Please forgive my recent silence.  There has been much to think upon.  There still is, in fact, but being quiet is not one of my strengths.

My time as an employee of HALO has come to an end.  Working with animals is a singular experience.  They live, they breathe, they play, they eat, they sleep.  They have needs and desires, they know fear and they know love.  In short, they are alive.  It is the nature of our work to expose ourselves to some elements of risk that are unique to working with animals. These risks can never go away, but they can be minimized.  In animal rescue, I believe I must first do no harm, by action or inaction.  And, in that way perhaps unique to human beings, my actions did not follow what I believed.

I violated a safety protocol.  I increased the chance of risk rather than minimize it.  By allowing the possibility of harm, I failed in my duties.  It was my actions that brought about this consequence.  It was my decisions that led to this conclusion.  The responsibility is mine.

It has been difficult.  Almost 3 years ago I came to HALO feeling very much like a stray myself.  I was still reeling from the death of my youngest brother, and though more than a year had elapsed I had come no further than a vague understanding that the world no longer had my baby brother in it.  As for this new world, I wanted no part in it.  I was constructing a wall around my heart.  Brick by brick, I was shutting out my friends, my family, even my own wife.  I hesitate to speculate on what might have happened if I had managed to place that final brick.

That's how HALO met me; a quiet, distracted boy was often late and frequently called in sick.  But when he was there he worked hard, and he seemed to be able to connect with dogs who were too scared or too hurt to accept the comfort of most other people.

I think now that perhaps those dogs recognized that I, too, was lost and injured in a world that took the ones I love and, in return, gave me only a cage to sit inside and watch the world go by.  To these dogs, I was more like them than I was like those "humans" who walk about in complete control, masters of all they survey.

With my short employment at HALO already in jeopardy due to my struggles to simply make it out of bed each day, a new dog arrived.  He seemed friendly enough to me.  When the time came for the dogs to go outside and play he did not go with them.   "Why can't he go outside?" I asked.

"Oh, him?  We can't let him play unsupervised.  He can jump over walls."

It was not that moment that everything changed for me.  It was not that moment when my life began to get better.  I was too far gone for revelations, my heart chipped too dull to fall in love so easily.  For the next two months, I did everything I could to try to get this dog adopted.  He was housebroken, good with kids and cats, loved to play fetch, and downright handsome.  I never neglected to mention his wall-jumping talents, but I also explained how he never ran away; he would just come right to the front door of the shelter  and wait to be let back in.  "And," I would tell them with sincere admiration, "He's smart enough to open his kennel if we forget to put the extra fasteners on the door.  But usually he just goes over to the toy bin, roots around until he finds a toy he likes, and then goes back into his kennel."

Everybody liked him, but no one was willing to adopt him.  When it came to time to select a dog to The Maddie's Fund Adoption Center (a 25 minute drive away where he would stay until he was adopted), I spoke up.  "Send this dog!"  I wanted him gone.  I was working hard to shield my heart from anything belonging to this new world I so despised.  And this mutt was ruining everything.

He was sent to Maddie's the next morning.  As I cleaned out his empty kennel I felt something stir in my chest.  I told myself it was relief, but the lie evaporated as quickly as I thought it.  I knew what this feeling was: regret.

That afternoon we got a call from the Maddie's Adoption Center.  "You gotta take him back; he's climbing over the walls of the runs like they're nothing."

Then there he was, smiling up at me from his freshly-cleaned kennel.  I knelt down and stuck my fingers through the bars and petted him.  What a strange creature.  He's charming, he's stubborn, he's clever, and he does not know how to give up.

"Damn you," I muttered.  "You're perfect."

That was the moment things started to get better.  I adopted him, much to the consternation of my wife, who was assuredly not a dog person.  After a few hours with this particular mutt, however, she was.  We named him "Watson."  It was that day, my wife and I playing with our new dog, when I felt a glimmer of being a real person again.

Thus, my interest in saving animals is purely a selfish one.  They need us almost as much as we need them.  As times change and technology brings us closer together while simultaneously pushing us further apart, our companion animals remind us what it means to be human.  They teach us that what's important doesn't really change.  I'm trying to work in a technology joke about dogs having a "classic point-and-lick interface" but I can't think of anything equivalent for cats so I'm going to have to abandon that idea and move on.

The purpose of this long-winded preface is to give weight to the words that now follow.  I loved my time with HALO.  I've never had a job where I couldn't wait to get out of bed in the morning.  The time I spent as a volunteer coordinator was far too short a time to spend with such fine people.  The dedication, the skill, the talent, and the energy of our volunteers made every day a gift.  I am honored and humbled and extremely proud of everything we've accomplished together.  I'm extremely grateful that you are there to keep fighting to save the lives of the animals that may one day go and rescue a human of their own.

I am grateful for the time that we had.  I loved working together.  It's not enough to simply love, however.  A person must protect what they love, or risk losing it.  Carelessness sinks more ships than storms, I imagine.  So, my staff, my volunteers, my friends, my HALO.  You were mine for a little while but I can't adopt you all.  I feel sorrow, yes, and losing you is like losing a part of myself.   But be glad, as I am glad, that somewhere out there a boy and his dog are laughing and playing in the big beautiful world, and they never would have had that without you.



Friday, February 03, 2012

It's supposed to hurt, I think.

Space travel, I mean.  There's no friction to tear at the body.  The ether neither helps nor hinders as we slip between stars.  Rarely, and growing rarer, are the delicate tugs of gravity wells.  Gentle enough, like a new lover guiding me to bed.

Our minds, however, meet with some resistance.  The chymical sleep slows the very clockwork of my cells and the researchers insist that I could sleep until forever ends, if I wished.  I had laughed and insisted there were less expensive ways of accomplishing that, if I wished.

They chymical sleep doesn't seem to stop the mind.  I am hesitant to say my mind is awake.  Yet it is not what I remember of dreaming.  And all the time...this tearing sensation.  There is a substance to my mind and whatever that substance may be it is scraping against the emptiness while my body glides fluidly past diffuse nebulae and remnants of supernovae.

The lack of scientific terms tempts me to think of a soul as it travels through Hell.  Except I don't recall the storytellers every describing Hell as quiet.  I suppose it could be that, too.  Silence.  Loneliness.  Not even a heartbeat for comfort.  No pulse in my vein reminding me of life.  Only the memory of life to trouble my thoughts until I awaken to the sting of a syringe and my destination.

I travel on and do not complain since I don't remember how to.  The void sips at me.  What the philosophers taught me to call the Self wisps away in eddies and swirls.  I travel on and do not fear.

When I awake, I suspect, the consciousness I return to will have no template in which to properly store this experience.  It will be reduced, contained, and shelved.  Perhaps at times I will recognize it long enough to regard it as a novelty, like the wax cylinders my father collected.  He would tell me of the symphonies they held within that he longed to share with me, if only there were a phonograph to play them with.

His regret was worth respect but I could only nod as we stared at the dusty, molding cylinders behind glass in the dining room we never used anymore.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The susurrus behind me is the only protest of discarded drafts.  I wait for it to fade like I always do.  And then it always does.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sometimes I worry that I only write when I'm brooding.  So to dispel the myth that I am a swirling vortex of lugubrious energy with a dash of formal education, here's this.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Everyone is somewhere else.  They all are.  Every one.  Glittering jewels of binary code fall like rain and burst forth like geysers.  Everyone is awash in it; they clean their hands like plague flies and touch each others' faces like grooming chimps.

Everyone is like something else.  Everyone is congealing into something they remind one another of.

Now they all remind me of the same things, over and over.

Of course, it's entirely possible and probably probable that this is all in my head.

Still...everyone seems a little distracted lately.

Reading a lot lately.  Lying late in bed with a too-dim bulb of light until my arms ache and my collarbone screams at me to get out of that twisted, barely-supported homage to both the prone and the supine.  I'm a caterpillar turning up to a tempting branch but unsure, unsure, not all the legs let go.

Nibbling at the words.  Steady, I digest them.  And digested, they do give me a strength.  A strength fed by pulp novels and undisputed classics colliding in a cauldron of fusion and fission.  The product is not familiar to me.  I know it only as a vague, uneasy inspiration; all the art and beauty is work, a work, wrought and birthed, calculated from formulae on a clacking abacus and the exponential results swished on a slide rule.

I digest these things, lazy in my bed.  Suffering from the feast of words and not the twinge of any envy.

Now and then, a twinge of disgust as the clouds of industry part and I remember about that time that I was perfectly right about you.