Bless You, Spotify
I’ve been talking music lately with a youngster and it’s got me thinking… reminiscing more like, about the music I love. And I do love music, maybe more than anything. You kids today are soooo lucky, and soooo spoiled. I can’t imagine being a kid and having every song ever written at my Spotify or Apple fingertips, and what gibberish that ability might lead me to listen to?
You see, when I was a kid you had to patiently seek out music on the radio, or maybe television. There were always relevant musical guests on Ed Sullivan and Hee-Haw. Or you could tune in to “The Johnny Cash Show”, or the “Glenn Campbell Good-time Hour,” where you knew you’d find interesting and diverse music, but mostly you tuned your radio dial in quiet desperation… flipping past the latest, current, costumed thing like The Village People or Kiss (I apologize to those of you who are fans of these bands. No really! I am truly, truly sorry) until you found something to revel in, something that fucking moved your everlasting soul.
That was the music I was in search of when I was thirteen and the lights went out in my bedroom. I didn’t really care if it was rock, or pop, or soul, or disco. I just wanted it to make me feel something. It might make me laugh (The Streak), or cry (Cat’s in the Cradle), or think (Ode to Billy Joe), or dance (Proud Mary), but it had to make me feel alive. And once you found it you had to wait for it… and wait… and wait some more until you heard it again, usually at the very worst possible time, when the song was already half-way through, and you’d have to beg everyone in the room to shut up as you cranked up your single speaker, AM only, transistor radio, and of course you were always the youngest one, so no one paid any mind to your “ridiculous” pleadings.
And records cost money. They were precious. You might ask for The Eagles’, “One of these Nights” album for Christmas and get KC and the Sunshine Band instead, because “the department store was out.” And you also wanted a book. Your single, working mother couldn’t afford both, so you read your book and you listened to KC and the fucking Sunshine Band until you knew every word to “Shake Your fucking Booty.” Trust me when I say it was a difficult time, a time when one was literally forced to thank God for an older sister whom one hated, and who hated you, just because of her record collection.
Because you see, when something is rare you value it more. When I finally scored that Eagles album it was like owning the Mona Lisa. I lovingly cared for it. I only handled it’s outer edges, and I routinely changed my turntable’s needle, and I never, ever failed to return it first to it’s original paper sleeve, and then to it’s cardboard jacket if something, say by chance an afternoon baseball game, called. That Eagles record stayed in playable shape right up until CD’s came out, when it was retired to memory where it’s songs still haunt my showers to this day.
But please don’t take this as complaining. I am forever grateful that I was born in the age of radio, and of recordings. I truly don’t know how people survived before Barry Gordy and Sam Phillips saved this rockin‘ world, but they thankfully did, those Neolithic souls, somehow struggling along in their music-less lives so that we could live in an age where we are mercilessly bombarded with music, good music and bad, and where I, for one, love every damned song someone feels the urge to sing.
Oh, Prose! How you’ve thrown me for a loop? And all these years I have thought that the bottles were there to drown the past in, not to float up it’s relics. But the damned memories will never die, will they? And now you want to see me drunk on them, and to watch as I regurgitate them up, and laugh as I wallow in the messes I’ve made.
But there is this one bottle, dusty and aged. Watch as it clings like oil to the sides of this swirling crystal. See how it settles on the bottom, weighty and sure? Lift it up. Don’t fall shy, now. Push your nose right in. Close your eyes, and mouth. Breath it in like a young girl’s breath, floral and light. Yes, that is good! Relax. Let it have it’s way. It will not hurt. Not much.
Now then, slowly… taste.
Do not swallow, not yet. Swish it instead. Swish it hard! Harder than that, Prose! Come now! You asked for this. Swish it all around! It is on you to wake the flavors up! There is no shame. Ok, good… now… now… now then. Swallow. Feel it down. Feel it titillate as it scatters your mind.
Ahhh. It tastes of autumn, does it not? With subtle hints of moonlight, and starry innocence? Now, search through it, find that sugary sweetness floating somewhere beneath. It recalls a kiss if you can find it, a pressing of bodies, a squeezing of hands, the fear of the forbidden, and somewhere a worried mother sitting up, her hands folded in useless prayer.
And the vapors so dry, recalling what is gone. And the jarring numbness of regret, or lack thereof. Ah, it is a precious bottle, this one. A good one for memories, and so very, very old.
Go ahead, Prose. Drink up. It is the best I have to offer, and isn’t that what you asked for?
God gives a 100 but keeps back 1.
I've noticed lately that some people are born rich while others are lucky. And some well are both. I'm neither so I can tell the difference. Even when you meet people for the first time you tend to compare yourself to them. Wow, they're so well-off, or wow they're so much more attractive than you. Or wow, they drive a great car or ride an amazing bike. Whatever maybe the case, I found out that not everything is greener on the other side.
I'm an introvert on the journey of being an ambivert. I have learnt the subtle art of "talking". In my quest of making new friends and connections, I listened to their life stories. Of course I compared them to mine. I realized that God blessed them with talent or abundant finances or a close-knit family. However on further inspection, all was not well with these people. In a sense something was lacking.
For example, They managed to go to college and get a degree but they lacked confidence. Or someone who is tall, handsome but is afraid of women... So nothing is a 100%. My conclusion? Nobody's perfect. Me? I'm super creative and talented. But I have social anxiety and respond very well to stress. God didn't make any human being completely perfect. We're all imperfect in a way, the sooner we accept that I think the better we would be in our daily interactions with one another.
So, God made us beautiful in our own little ways. But He kept back that 1% to Himself knowing that it would be just enough to make us human. Otherwise we would have been gods ourselves, ruling the universe...
To Kill or to Allow It—Is It Even a Question?
If I could get away with it, I would kill a killer, doing everyone a big favor. Of course, the sentiment would be even sweeter if I did this before they were to actually kill someone. Now I realize that such a twist makes me a killer before the would-be killer is, but you really can't have it both ways, can you?
My point is that with this curveball, I would have to be absolutely certain this person was going to kill someone. Soon? Well, not necessarily. They would have to kill someone at some point in the future. Does that really matter? Not to me.
How would I know my intended victim were going to kill someone? I JUST KNOW! Trust me. And if you don't trust me, then maybe you should wonder about your future.
And here is where this whole thing fucks with me. What if the person who I'm sure will kill someday feels the same about me? Just playing Devil's Advocate here, but if he were sure about me, then he would be killing me before I killed someone, which of course would be himself. I mean, he'd be right, wouldn't he? Would that be probable cause or just plain murder? Or would my way stand in court?
So, this guy... Should I fuck right back with him and kill myself? Imagine his surprise! Imagine his disappointment in not ridding the Earth of a killer himself. Further, what if I knew he was going to kill someone because that someone was himself? If he were planning suicide, should I kill him before he does it and take the credit for killing a killer?
Does it work like that? God, I hope so! It's only self-defense for goodness' sake!
“I just feel like… there’s no time left. Like I am out of time… don’t you ever feel like that?” My older sister stood before me, crying and anxious.
Ohmygod. She even cries beautifully.
That was my first thought. The next was to wonder what the hell she was even talking about. Her life had always been perfect.
My sister was 38, a former cheerleader, model, and beauty pageant winner. She was married to her high school sweetheart with whom she had three wonderful kids. She had a successful career and was still so breathtakingly beautiful that other women would often try to emulate her style.
What do YOU have to cry about? Seriously. Ugh.
I hugged her to me, unsure what to say next because honestly, she was weirding me out. I didn’t know where her uncomfortable emotional deluge was coming from, but I wanted it to end. I was eleven years her junior. The little sister. Why is it suddenly my job to help her while she loses her shit for no apparent reason?
I proceeded to tell her she was silly to feel the way she did. I discounted her sense of dread by blaming her feelings on stress and/or hormones. I tried to get her “back to normal” as soon as possible with my cheery, empty encouragement.
Less than one year later, I received a call from my panicked mother saying my sister had collapsed at home while getting ready for work.
My sister had died of a brain aneurysm.
She was 39 years old.
Perhaps my sister knew, by way of some premonition, that her time was nearing an end. I will never know what was on her mind.
If I could have one more day with her, I would choose to return to when she told me she felt there was no time left. I would take her to get one of those fancy coffees she adored and I would just would sit with her and listen.
I would listen for as long as she’d speak.
A Soft Pat on the Hand
I wish I could tell you that you're going to survive this, but you won't. I know. You want to put this letter down already. You want to run away before you read the stark truth contained within these pages. The unfortunate reality is that you'll know what I've written all too well, in the end. We all will. Because... None of us is going to survive this.
Not your children. Or pets. Or even the giant sequoia tree you planted as a seedling. Sure, it might outlive the rest of us, but eventually, under some circumstance or other, it'll die. You'll die. I will die.
And frankly, that's terrifying.
But it's also kinda wonderful.
Can you imagine the low stake rubbish our lives would become otherwise?
You know, for a brief, shinning moment, we'd captured it. That phrase "You only live once." It was a hollow call that sang to the heart of us all. It was an anthem of freedom: jump. Run. Walk barefoot in the forest. Swim in the ocean. Taste the essence of life.
Before it became an excuse to eat tide pods, the heart of the sentiment was pure.
You. Only. Live. Once.
Yeah, yeah. We're not talking about your theories or beliefs here. We're talking about now. Today.
You get one.
And then it's gone.
Shit. It'd be easy to collapse under the weight of such a responsibility, wouldn't it?
So many of us do. Wasting hours scrolling, eating, loathing ourselves and everyone else on this god forsaken planet. I do it. God, how many hours of my life have I wasted playing fucking Candy Crush?
And I'm not saying we don't sometimes need to "zone out," for lack of a better term. We do.
Zoning out and checking out are two different things.
Have you checked out of your own life?
Have you signed off?
Are you content to waste one more precious, finite second doing all this shit you hate?
Screw being stuck.
Dig yourself out.
We are running out of time.
And I've seen people die. I've seen the breath of life leave their bodies in one quaking, gasping shudder. I've seen their souls clinging about the ceilings, yanking at the hair of their loved ones, desperate for one last touch. The lights flicker to the sounds of their screams: their agony at having wasted such an opportunity as life itself. And before they can touch-- hold to their loved ones one last time-- they're sucked away into the abyss. For better or worse. To the sound of heaven's trumpets or the shrieking parlor of hell.
And then I've seen the quiet peace of saying goodbye to a life well spent. The room is warm. The hearts that ache, but do not shatter fill all the world for but one moment with the sound of their pulsing love. There is light, and quiet, and a silence that does not grate, in that moment-- in that soft rush of breath. These souls do not cling about the shoulders or scream or weep. They exit our world with a soft pat on the hand of the one sitting beside their bed. And the tears that fall water flowers in a garden of memory.
I want to step quietly.
I want to know, when my time has come that I have lived and loved and held tight to the things that are truly important. I want you to know it, too.
Because, I want to tell you that you'll make it out of this alive...
But you won't.
And if death should greet me on the morrow, I would leave with a soft pat on the hand.
The Depths Of Fear
I'm not afraid of heights, I swear, especially when there is zero chance of falling. I'm not afraid of the dark either. In fact I've always felt more at home in the glow of the moon than in the warmth of the sun. Despite that I stare down and my chest clenches. No, there's no way. It's not like it is on land where I've spent my whole life acclimating to the fears. This is different, this is something new, a deeper more primal emotion. Even though I have plenty of air, I feel it isn't enough. My light that I thought was powerful only illuminates a small circle. Below me the chasm seems like a forgotten entrance to Hell, a void with only unending terror to accompany me. No, there's no way I'm swimming into that, I'm not even willing to go over it. Even though I paid extra for this dive and my friends will mock my cowardice I start my ascent. This is a place mankind isn't meant to be and I understand that now. This is their home, whatever dwells in that darkness and I will leave them to it.
That Little Red Button
“It is important to review the details of the contract before you sign.” I should have paid attention to those prophetic words. I should have never agreed to listen to the pitch in the first place.
“The party of the first part, that is you, Mr. Smith, also known as the payee, agrees to the following. By pressing (or activating) the red button, you are solely responsible for the death of one person on Planet Earth. You will never know who this person is, where they are, or exactly when or how they died. They may be an infant, a child, a woman, a man, or geriatric. They may die even if you do not press the red button. But, they will die if you do. The party of the second party, the person to die, also known as the damned, has not agreed to anything and is not even knowledgeable of their part in this contract. They will never know the connection of your action and their death. They will never be informed of your participation. No one will ever inform them or their family of these details. Essentially, they will know or learn nothing.”
I was just about to leave, when he continued.
“Upon pressing the small red button, you, the payee, will receive one million dollars in one hundred dollar bills immediately. Upon payment, with no receipt, our business will conclude and you agree never to speak of your participation in this arrangement to anyone, at any time. Do you understand the exact details of the contract? If so, Mr. Smith, please affix your signature to receive your money. The sooner you sign, the sooner you will become wealthy.”
That was it. All so tidy. I press a button, someone dies, and I am rich. It was all so easy, so sterile, and so antiseptic. No one would ever know. Could I live with murder? Worse yet, could I live with being a paid murderer? One million dollars to blindly kill someone with friends, a job, a family. I needed the money, but did I need it that badly? I have bills. I have a family. I want to be important. I want it all. But, is it worth the price?
I took a few deep breaths. Press the damn button! Press it! What was I waiting for?
It was one of those weird out-of-body experiences where you get to see yourself. The paramedic finally gave up with CPR. I heard him tell the other paramedic to note the time of death. He even confirmed my stroke and seizure for his report.
I saw my own death and no one saw me see me die.
I take that back. Someone saw me.
I saw the contract man walk up to me (or what was left of me) to inform me of my official passing. He informed me that he also represented a group of people who he offered the same red button contract. I believe, apparently, in my hesitation, another payee acted to receive his one million dollars and kill before I could act to receive my million dollars and kill.
I asked him who the other payee was. His only reply, “As per the contract, we never inform the damned the connection to such action and their untimely death. However, we will inform you of your required presence in accordance with your agreed recent moniker.”
I never saw the two demons approach to take me away until it was too late.
Write for No One
Of all the ways
words can be expressed
it’s impossible to know
if what one imparts
into the world
will be impactful enough
to leave a mark
at any depth
under any person’s skin
is it reasonable to assume
will catch on
to your words
during your lifetime
considering the best ones
long after they’re dead.
a poet’s obligation
speak for yourself
satisfying every compulsion to communicate
before all else
because in your world
your words matter the most.
jot down anything
that excites your heart enough
to leap from your chest
because if passion isn’t pumping out of you
then you’re already
more than halfway dead.
archive every sentiment
flooding your mind
because when your voice departs this realm
a unique frequency will be left behind
connecting us with you
in the afterlife.
never hold back the truth
even if it kills you
because in an age where honesty is hard to come by
your words could empower
a bullied child
to muster the courage to say “NO,”
or a mother with a swollen jaw
to regain the proper footing to walk away,
or a divided nation
to disassemble their broken machine
only to rebuild it again so it runs new.
do this all
without an audience in mind,
without a contingency plan,
without love or praise
cheering for you at the finish line,
and without tomorrow
because there may never be a
is when a poet should write.
You should write selfishly,
be unrelenting with your words,
and tell it raw—
Speak Fucking Raw!
Who cares who you please
or if it's politically correct?
Who determines what’s right anyway?
As a poet
you must be willing to rebel,
and do it often
because who else will?
write a beginning
sometimes skip the middle
and always leave out the end
are only dreamed
when free thought
is given room to exist
when they’re charted out for you
to the very end,
A Good Poet
is a cartographer of the heart
who doesn’t point you to a definitive X
on a hand-drawn map,
helps you navigate
to the buried treasures deep within.
who write for themselves,
who think for themselves,
who are their authentic selves,
will write for everyone.
at all costs,
write for no one.
Discovery Among the Trees
Flora’s coworkers always knew when she was coming down the hallway by the distinctive tapping sound of her heels slapping the polished tiles. She had a dozen pairs to coordinate with her collection of collared blouses and knee-length skirts. She was always, undoubtedly the best-dressed person in the room, whether she was at a meeting, post-work happy hour, or an industry conference. She didn’t have to worry about owning clothes for any social events, either, allowing her to pour her all into projecting the right image at work. As a consultant, she knew that having the right image was half the battle.
Flora’s lucrative career allowed her to afford an apartment in Manhattan just a subway ride away from her office. For just 60% of her post-tax income, she got to rent an entire studio to call home — no roommates to chase down for their portion of the bills, no more 2-hour commutes, and no domestic worries apart from the occasional rat, building break-in, and maintenance emergency. She had finally made it.
Flora had been putting in long hours at her job for five long years now. It had been made clear to her that showing loyalty to her employer would be a worthy investment that would catapult her toward limitless success — or at least to some promotions and raises. Instead, every compliment and thumbs-up from her superiors seemed to come with a new project assignment. Now, praise just gave her anxiety about the new responsibilities that were about to be piled onto her plate. She couldn’t complain, though. She had a solid, six-figure salary and a place to live in the city. The new American dream, right?
She heard whispers around the office about some new hires. The executives had finally decided to answer the staff’s desperate requests for more resources, even though it was a few years too late. Flora’s supervisor called her into his office one day to deliver the news.
“Flo, you’ve been such a rockstar this quarter!”
Flora didn’t let her smile break, regardless of her burning hatred for that nickname or the patronizing, corporate label. ‘I guess we’re kind of like rockstars if you count the alcohol consumption,’ she thought.
“Well, I just wanted to give you the good news myself,” he continued. “You’ve really been going above and beyond here, and as you know, the whole team has come to rely on you quite a bit.”
Flora felt her stomach jump with anticipation. This had to be about the promotion that her boss had been hinting about for the past year. She had done all that was asked from her for five years, each year renewing her self-doubt about ever deserving a promotion. She just needed to try harder, raise her hand more, and spend more time showing her worth. Her boss finally noticed her hard work.
“As you’ve probably heard around the rumor mill by now, we’re bringing on a couple of new consultants to help support your team. You’ll be responsible for their training and supervision. They’re still quite green, but you’re always so good at navigating challenges here.”
Flora felt her jaw tighten. ‘Be grateful they trust you with more responsibility,’ she reminded herself.
“Sir, that sounds wonderful! I look forward to meeting our new team members,” she replied with a smile.
They were interrupted by an impatient knock on the door by the executive assistant. Her wide-eyed expression told them that this was urgent.
“Flo, I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere. Always putting out fires over here!” His chuckle echoed down the hall as he walked away.
The executive assistant rolled her eyes as the supervisor marched ahead. Flora understood. She knew that “putting out fires” was manager-speak for “delegating everything to my direct reports while I stand around looking panicked.” She was usually resolving these urgent client issues so her boss could fulfill his duty of sitting in his office and looking busy.
Flora’s supervisor had some sort of official-looking document up on his computer screen. She really couldn’t help but notice. The man didn’t even try to angle the monitor away from anyone who entered his office. She slowly leaned toward the monitor to get a peek. It looked like he was reviewing a signed offer letter that had come back from one of the new hires. She really didn’t intend to do anything but get a quick glance, but there were some big, bolded numbers that caught her eye. She couldn’t believe her eyes at first, but there it was in bold text: this fresh graduate would be paid 50% more than Flora.
She finally snapped. She had kept it together for so long here — five long years, in fact. Five years of all-nighters, lost weekends, and withered relationships, the endless piling on of extra responsibilities as punishment for her hard work. The executives knew they had her backed into a corner. She wouldn’t dare leave. They knew how much they paid her — they knew she could already barely afford her big-city rent.
Flora walked back to her cubicle. A couple of the consultants popped their heads out when they heard her heels come down the hallway. She marched past them without a word and grabbed her purse. Good thing work was her life, or she may have had some personal items covering the gray walls of her cubicle. It was a pretty smooth exit. She walked over to the elevators and left the bleak corporate scene for the last time.
Flora wasn’t even planning on telling her parents. Her mother just happened to call one day right after Flora had sold her couch to a bright-eyed college freshman. That was the last thing left in the apartment besides her old paintings. She had to leave her Blue Period behind.
“How are you doing, Flo? How has work been going?”
Flora cringed. Her mother had a remarkable ability to hit every nerve in just a few seconds. Work and money were the only languages she really understood. At least Flora didn’t have to plaster an unwavering smile onto her face for a phone call.
“It was going great. I’m done with that, though.”
“Oh, you got a new job? How much does it pay?”
Flora’s eyes just about rolled back into her head. Of course this was her mother’s first question. What a perfect reminder of why she left Long Island.
“You could say that. I won’t have to worry about money again.”
“That’s wonderful, honey! Your father will be so proud. We knew you would get your head on straight someday.”
Flora sighed. “Yes, thanks, I think. Anyway, I have a very important business meeting now. Got to run.”
She hung up, picked up her bag, and walked out the door. Some say that she moved out to a hippie commune in Utah to get as far away as possible from her corporate hell. Some say she ran away with a mysterious gentleman. Others say she had a mental breakdown and drank herself to death in Jersey. There are bits and pieces of each theory that, when put together, give you a picture of the full truth. She did run away from the city to return to nature. No mysterious lover, though. No way she ever had the time for dating between her work hours. No alcoholic binges in Jersey, either.
One thing’s for sure: the mental breakdown part is true. She’s lucky she made it as long as she did on the consulting hamster wheel. Some people get thrown into a padded room when they snap. Some lose their jobs, relationships, and homes. That’s how Flora was different — she willingly gave those all up. She spent over three decades living by a set of rules she never signed up for. Screw the rules. Write your own. That’s what I did, anyway.
In a way, Flora died in Manhattan all those years ago. I left that depressed husk of a soul behind to disappear into nature. Some call me a witch now. See, you can’t even avoid the rumors when you hide yourself away in the forest upstate. They’re not wrong, though. I just use the abilities I’ve learned from the spirits that enchant these woods to sustain myself and protect the beautiful forest I call home. I can conjure any food I want with the harvest spell. Oh, and I place various curses on my old bosses to entertain myself. This week, I gave them fleas.
I have called this forest my home for many years now and have mastered many spells to create my paradise. I created my own rules. I no longer follow the traditional human lifecycle. It’s amazing what being unbothered for so long does to your lifespan. The magic helps a bit, too. First, do whatever you want. Second, don’t listen to anyone — that is, if they are foolish enough to enter your territory. Finally, don’t stick around the witch’s home any longer than you need to. That means that YOU should be on your way now. I’ve done more than enough talking for a lifetime — yours, anyway. Tell the world that Flora’s dead and that a silly old witch killed her! Ha!