Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shocked and Encouraged

I put my head in the ground a lot when it comes to politics, current events, and anything that's not my life or muse. This is what I see when I look up, especially around other poets. I was in the audience when David Word recited that thing in 2005 down in Austin at the Austin International Poetry Festival. They all cheered a standing ovation. I was there; I saw the whole thing. I saw a roomful of poets cheer mass murder by burning. I can take a boatload of pain in many different forms, but there's nothing else like fire. Everyone in that audience exploded in joy but me. If someone else in Austin heard his words, and felt like I still do about them, that person was silent or hiding. I didn't hide, but sometimes, I wish I did. I asked a few people why they support the poem and the poet, and got no straight answers. I even asked David Word; true to his poem, he wouldn't put himself on either side of the knife that convinced a crowded plane to fly into the Pentagon. However, he would turn some of us into glass or ash if it just meant pushing a button, and he got to decide the casualties. Earlier that evening, I recited "Old Gan" to the exact same audience. I wrote "Old Gan" to center around war, aggression, and forgetting why people fight when very understandable, even agreeable petty disputes become treason, betrayal, and needless death in pursuit of pride. He didn't understand the point of my poem. I made a blunt statement the next evening.

Imagine my shock when I saw this. I'm not going to declare myself in any journalist or politician's cheering section, but I'm not with David Word or direct lies to garner popular support for a re-election bid. Thunderous applause should draw suspicion: no one fixes a mortal flaw in one speech, especially when that speech crosses swords with earlier words from the same mouth. The audience of poets in Austin proved one thing to me: Poetry wrote itself into irrelevancy. I don't know what upset me more, that poets could respond so approvingly to David Word's writing, or the certainty that I'd have to convince those same people to read, understand, and appreciate mine. Perhaps some day, my vote will agree with the winner of an election: it's only happened once, and I'll let my audience guess which one for now. I'm determined to submit some more poems out for publication by the end of February: maybe things are different now than in 2005.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Then and Now

I changed a lot since then. My disease is under control, but still causes me misery. With more sanity comes better writing, which is my current joy. My goals are more simple now than then: peace, love, and understanding drive me. I'm in a comfortable place both mentally and physically, and instead of devoting myself to more madness, I devote myself to continued recovery. Life is a lot better now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Prepared to Take It, revisited

A thread of comments starting in 2006 requires me to answer in more than 4000 characters. The post is passable, but the comments are more telling.

I'm a paranoid schizophrenic; the paranoia and social awkwardness are inevitable. There is one person in the world who understands paranoid schizophrenia from the outside beyond the largely speculative medication and milligrams; his name is Michael Mack. I've written of him elsewhere on this blog. No one else comes close. Just remember that if you walk next to a homeless person, about 40% will be completely out of your realm of understanding. It's closer to 70% in DC for reasons no one understands.

I'll let you and the rest of the world in on a few things I don't talk about much: the Beast and the Night. I used to prowl in silence. At the time, stealthy, quiet movements were more effective at satisfying my urges than prayer is now. The Night was my mistress and the Beast was my first wife. To me, darkness and the anonymity of cold, primal suffering made more sense than anything the rest of you tried to teach me in school. When I prowled, I was the Hairy Beast: I had talons, a mane, strong muscles, and a sense of smell like an animal. I could smell fear without fear smelling me. Imagine the great cat nearby. He's silent, smooth, and you'll never know he's there unless he wants you to know. That was me in my mind. I travelled with the Beast in the Night, and no one knew I was there. That was empowering and cathartic to me. I didn't share.

Reality was a bit different. I was still stealthy: no one knew I prowled the night unless I wanted them to. However, I was no cat. Imagine six feet and 155 pounds of white flesh hiding in the woods at night, naked. Men can be quiet and unnoticed, too, but we use completely different movements. That's before I got so damn fat; Zyprexa is a foul pill. From those times, I learned a lot; a ditch is the second worse place I've ever woken up. The worst was in the branches of a familiar tree. That tree died.

That was my life. The Night was my normal. School was something I did because I had to. I made up a character, and played the part. He was arrogant, more than a bit mean, and very unpredictable. I had to be something believable, and sustainable. No one could know about the Night.

I judge things harshly because I was judged harshly. I grew up with lashes, fists, and the complete inability to stop anyone from handling me physically: skinny, weak, and slow are not assets to a boy. Harsh and aggressive are my models. Pain is my standard: I just don't know anything else outside Church, the Bible, and Christ, and I know precious little softness from those. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stranger, and I am with the strange.

One of the strangest things about me in high school was my uniform. If everything looks like it belongs on a person, people will believe the misdirection. I wore the gloves and jacket to keep the aether inside. The barriers weren't there to keep people out. My gloves, jacket, and hat were there to keep my monster inside. The whole thing wasn't a fortress; it was a prison. Trust me, you don't want to be inside that prison, or even visit.

As for High School, I was torn, very ambivalent towards my classmates, until I heard about the senior banquet. I got wind that I'd be elected "Biggest Spaz" and "Most likely to start a fight." People asked my act constantly to go to that event, knowing full well that my presence was there was solely for their amusement, and to be humiliated. Needless to say, I played along. I didn't go; people got their chance to laugh at my act, and I had one more Night to spend outside with the Beast. That was after my diagnosis. I was hiding my continued prowling and weapon from the doctors and therapists. I suppose that was funny to them.

You're a far better athlete than I was. There was absolutely no competition. I thought I gave you something to remember, but obviously I did not. That was my idea of revenge. Revenge is stupid. Now, I have a much different view on things. If I'm out to hurt someone, I don't let them know. If someone needs to physically hurt, the hurt will come from behind, without warning, and will give no one a chance to reciprocate. Then, and only then, would I let someone know whom the incision, laceration, concussion, gouge, or choke came from. Needless to say, I'm not in prison, so I feel very little reason to hurt anyone.

So now I write down my thoughts, so I can keep a few for when I'm lonely. I get lonely a lot, for obvious reasons. My best friends are in this thread of comments: they're my peers and equals. Nick is still immune to pain of all types. I still have a lot to learn from him. Bean, Jason as I know him, is still the most guarded guy I know. His fiancee told me once that we love each other more than any two other men who aren't gay. Personally, I think I love the guy more because many gay people are understandably extremely bitter and suspicious because of the ubiquitous horrible treatment their life choices receive at the hands of society. Kris is my dearest friend, despite the distance. I miss the hell out of that guy, and I love him, too. I still bother him on a regular basis; he's an incredibly good person.

I vastly prefer you to the original anonymous in this thread; at least you sign your name. I hate the craven cowardice of drive-by verbal criticism with no return address.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


My brother and I saw PBR this afternoon in Baltimore. I almost got into two arguments on the street, too. One of the PBR protesters decided to harass me for about a 40 foot walk right before I entered the arena. I didn't even make eye contact; it was bizarre. The protesters left during the show. Not even one of them stuck around to stick flyers in the faces of fans leaving the arena. Gary, my brother, and I had different reasons for disliking the protesters: I'll elaborate on mine, but not his. Pain, struggle, adversity, danger, and fear are all parts of the human experience; for me, courage is the antidote in sports and in life. I love boxing because I think it shows courage best in sport. If I'm willing to see a person fight and struggle through real violence and real injury in the ring, why would I be bothered with a bovine athlete instead of a human? Tell me what you think.