1. caterpillar

    What’s it like to be alone
    in a new place?
    What’s it like to escape to another
    state as a fugitive?

    Solitary glitch out of fugue state
    lover is no longer at my side
    farmhand gypsy on a white background
    made of snow
    sleeping bag in the dirt is where
    I lay my head
    Caterpillars always find me here,
    gentle and less pained by the passing time -
    noble souls with many suction-cup feet -
    they are my only friends
    I don’t touch any humans -
    but I pet every dog I meet
    “this one has a human heart”
    his companion says.
    Caffeine, the smell of rain & a used
    book do sustain me
    I don’t think very much
    on my past crimes -
    vandalism & petty thievery -
    I was mostly just an accessory
    with a taste for the smoke
    of Black Tar

    In the Valley, it’ s a sign
    of mental health to be sick
    “you’re a more complete person
    for having known Heroin” he said
    Now it’s a stone that can fall,
    any time, on the surface
    of my mind - look-
    concentric circles grow as they
    ripple out, self-soothing net
    just the same as thoughts
    of suicide -
    I feel in colors so I’ll tell you
    Heroin -is-all black & gold,
    encased in drops of amber like a relic,
    wrapped at the epicenter of a blackhole
    stand on the precipice of a pit
    full of silken tigers
    beautiful and burning bright like the poet said
    flimsy euphoria surrounded me
    supra-one dimensional and hollow
    at the center like all venom is -

    Solitary glitch out of fugue state
    lover is no longer at my side
    farmhand gypsy on a white background
    made of snow
    sleeping bag in the dirt is where
    I lay my head
    Caterpillars always find me here,
    gentle and less pained by the passing time -
    noble souls with many suction-cup feet -
    they are my only friends
    I don’t touch any humans -
    but I pet every dog I meet
    “this one has a human heart”
    his companion says.
    Last night I heart a grey woman
    and she said, “I am
    afraid to enter my own house
    at night, I’ll check every closet
    & beneath the bed”
    I can relate
    I sleep with a Smith & Wesson
    blade clipped to my pants
    and a butterfly knife under
    my head.



  2. something wrong

    Pull the plunger up. Suck up a big hit of nihilism and futility. It’s punk rock to do so. Jab at yourself, mutilate yourself. Attack your beautiful body. There must be something wrong with you, something hurting inside, or you wouldn’t be doing this. Normal people don’t do this to themselves. But you decided not to be normal a long time ago.

    Now, you can’t look others in the eye. You make as little human contact as possible.

    You don’t really pay attention to what goes on in your life. You don’t really remember much of the last few years. You just don’t care.

    Dancing around destruction. We’re all just children. We shouldn’t be playing this game, but death is so intriguing. One by one we make our escape, we slip into the void. Your family cries, they wonder why you did this to yourself.

    They will never get it.



  3. steve


        -The operation was a success, but the patient has died!!!
        -Steve! Shut the fuck UP!
        It was 3:00 AM, his bed was only about ten feet from mine, and he had kept me up all night with his pained nocturnal screams. I looked at the situation for a moment and and contemplated what I had been reduced to, spending the night shouting back and forth with a discordant schizophrenic.
        -The baseball player was right! He was right all along!
        Sighing, I rolled over and covered my head with my pillow, and tried to get some sleep.

        It was my second stay in the psych ward, known euphemistically as the “mental health unit.” This visit stands out as maybe the worst psych ward experience I have had. I was in a very low state emotionally, and it was my longest period of captivity in such a place to date.
        Steve was actually a pretty nice guy, overall. Although he annoyed me and thoroughly succeeded in depriving me of sleep, I felt for the guy. He had been handed a pretty shitty life, and was rather docile compared to some of my fellow vacationers. I was happy I wasn’t him.
        The psych ward wasn’t too bad of a place, honestly. The patients were given relative freedom to roam about and spend their time as they pleased, so long as they didn’t try and leave. Unfortunately, I found myself held in the worst part of the mental health unit, which is where I met Steve. It was behind a metal door with a massive metal bolt, referred to simply as “Escape Risk.”    
         I quickly discovered that keeping patients from bolting was not the unit’s sole purpose, as evidenced by the old man in the wheelchair. It was really a place to keep the truly sick ones. While the main unit was intended for those suffering from manic episodes, suicidal thoughts, and depression, Escape Risk was used to keep the raving schizophrenics, mentally retarded, and those prone to violent outbursts. I definitely felt that I didn’t belong back there. I wanted so badly to get out, and all that stood in my way was the signature of my psychiatrist, declaring that I was no longer a threat to myself or others.
        Psychiatrists who work in hospitals are notoriously overworked, with far too many patients on their caseload. There were only three psychiatrists on the unit, which probably held forty to fifty patients at the time of my stay. My psychiatrist clearly did not want to deal with me, and showed absolutely no interest in my concerns.
        I had started off my stay in the more relaxed portion of the psych ward. That ended when I had an emotional breakdown and subsequent freakout in the hallway. Dazed by Ativan, my brain still ravaged from the heavy drinking I was doing prior to my admission, I began pulling my hair and shouting,
        -I can’t be here!  No, no, why did I do this! I have to get out, please, please let me out!
        This was a pretty mild freakout by my standards, but apparently it was enough for six impossibly huge men to materialize out of nowhere. They politely escorted me to Escape Risk. I was desperately pleading all the while, but I knew that if I tried to run or resist they would pin me down and give me a shot of Thorazine in the ass.
        I ended up in the psych ward as the result of a string of events which ended with me running out of the hospital wearing nothing but a pair of tight jeans, covered in my own blood, with a quickly reddening towel wrapped around my arm. I screamed as I ran, doing a couple of laps around the hospital before it dawned on me that I had nowhere else to go. I returned to the hospital to complete my intake into the psych ward. I held my head down like a sad, blood-covered dog.
        I have come to consider myself a psych ward aficionado. I’m pretty crafty and know all of the ropes. For instance, I know how to get them to give me the strongest nicotine patch they have, which I take bites out of over the course of the day and chew for a brief nicotine buzz. I know which foods the kitchen staff are willing to prepare, and to write what I want in on the order form rather than circling one of the preselected options. I know what to say to get them to give me more Valium. I don’t know for sure if this is really something I should be proud of.
        I swore my psychiatrist was holding me hostage. You would hardly ever get a chance to speak with her aside from the scheduled visit, which would come three times a week. Every time she came to assess my status, I would plead with her to put me back in with the “regular” patients. I tried to convince her that I was coherent, that I understood my circumstance, and that I was totally compliant. Every time she left without giving me that one precious signature, my heart would sink.
        After several days of intense boredom and zero sleep, I was broken. I could hardly even get to use the phone, as it was guarded by an old man who swore that his son was about to call at any second. As far as I know, his son never called him once.
        So I decided to kiss up to my psychiatrist. It became apparent that she was on a power trip, so I was as nice to her as possible. Vitriol boiled inside of me as I smiled and went along with her every word. I no longer pleaded for my release, no longer tried to convince her of my sanity. After eleven days in her grip, she finally granted me her signature. I tried to conceal my joy, worried that the slightest show of emotion would get her to revoke my freedom.
        The next day, as I packed up my meager belongings, Steve suddenly ceased his delusional ranting. A cloud of clarity seemed to settle over him. He then spoke the only meaningful sentence I had ever heard him speak.
        -Goodbye Hanuman, sorry for all the screaming. I wish you the best in life.



  4. cringe comes delayed

    glancing down, shock of red-

    pain, the phantom state


  5. dreamcatchers

    -I’m concerned about some of your… fixations. 
    - …
    -When we live in a society, sometimes we need to adjust ourselves in order to fit harmoniously with the group.  Cohesian creates clarity.  Now, the matter at hand involves the fact that you’ve been exhibiting warning signs.  Red flags for a future of joblessness, homelessness, drug addiction, criminality, you name it.  Social ills cannot be in the potential future of one of our graduates.  We don’t want you to be alienated from society.  We want you to be a positively contributing member, and that’s why, child, we’re sending you on a specially state-funded trip this summer.

    The child sat motionless on the bus as it careened through the desert.  Another child taps at the back of the seat.
        -Hey, so what’s your dream disorder?
        -They told me I’m a few degrees away from becoming an alienated street urchin.  They are all about my future though, so I get to go to summer camp at their expense.
    -The doctors will probably give you a scientific name for it once they examine you.  I bet your whole neighborhood got flagged.
    -When the dreamwaves of the populace don’t fit the proscribed algorithm, every school and workplace must send a certain percentage of their lowest performers to a rehabilitation program.  Before they started this protocol, certain areas would be steadily derailing their target algorithm and eventually it’d cause full blown problems.  The Proactive Patriot Act prevents dis-union in the union.
    -Hmm, I figured they may have been hacking into the dreamspace.  How else to explain some of their peculiar accusations.  So what is this dream monitoring algorithm something like a seismograph to predict earthquakes?
    -You know it kid.
    -What are you being sent to camp for?
    -Same thing as half these other kids - too many nightmares.  Nightmares about the future is my thing.  My counselor said they are leaking over to disturb the peace of the collective unconscious already.  There have been some riots in my area, but who can really say if I caused them, while I slept?
    -Hmmm. What kinda treatment are they gonna try to give us do you think?
    -Probably start with positive reinforcement.  We know that one already.  After that, well, we already know that alternative too well.
    -And probably we’ll be given some drugs to jumpstart the process. 
    -I read somewhere that summer camps are supposed to be fun.
    -Maybe a long time ago.
    -My mother says nostalgia for the past is just part of the human condition.
    -Mine says most people have nostalgia for a past they never lived.  She feels nostalgia for ice cream cones, but she’s never even had one.
    -I read a lot about the summer camps that used to be in a vogue, not more than a century ago.  Fat camp, flute camp, soccer camp, military camp, jesus camp.  That kind of thing.
    -Yes I heard of those fashions too.  Parents would send their children to become healthily disciplined in music theory, sportsmanship, skinny eating habits and church or state dogmas.
    -Now they send disordered dreamers to the woods for 8 weeks of REM re-programming. 
    -Camp REM Revamp.
    -I wonder if they’ll have a black market at our camp.  I heard the fat camps had them in the past.  They would sneak in candy and sell it on the junk food black market.  If they were successful enough none of the kids would go home any skinnier.
    -I’m sure there will be something there.  Some way to dampen the effects of the treatment… 
        Both children watched the desert through the window.  Trees contorted themselves into shapes that looked like beauty.  Neither child was concerned with the absurdity of a summer camp located in the middle of the hottest desert on their side of the world.  Both were considering the things they stood to lose at the camp for disordered dreamers.

    -Better close your eyes kid, this is your last chance to get some sleep before the bus arrives.



  6. g-h-o-s-t

    G-H-O-S-T. Five letters, blaring in my head, louder than anything I’ve ever heard. Cycling past me, I am forced to read and reread them countless times.
        Each letter is an impossibly bright white. Shocks of electric pink convulse through them, the light makes my head hurt. Each repetition feels like an act of violence, causing me to gasp inwardly each time.
        Soundlessly, my lips pronounce the letters as they pass by, all except for H. Why not the H? This obscene and hideous question is the root of my obsession with the word. It seems to taunt me. Ghost. G-H-O-S-T.
        The headache is getting worse now. I try to lie down. Tossing and turning, my mind isn’t allowed to rest, the letters scrolling like an infinite prayer wheel. My mind feels like it is on fire, absolutely no thoughts can get through.
        I decide to run a bath. It’s what I do whenever I feel sick or tense. The noise of the running water has the effect of drowning out the monotonous chant in my head, if only just a little. I put my head under the running water, and it is reduced to a faint but persistent whisper.
        Slowly, though, the letters reemerge. They overpower the water drumming down on my skull. At first the letters are a dull, pulsating blue. Slowly they brighten to an electric blue, which then turns to ember yellow. Eventually they are glowing white, with as much intensity as ever, if not more. More whips of hot pink light. More throbbing in my head. The cycling of the prayer wheel begins to speed up. Now it is on my lips again. G-H-O-S-T. Over and over.
        I am panicking now. I don’t know what to do, this has gone on for hours now. It’s not the first time this has happened to me, but it’s definitely the worst. It seems to have been getting progressively worse, and occurring more frequently. How much worse can it get? It already feels like my head is going to explode. Why is this happening to me?
        I get out of the bath. Before I can even dry off, I decide to do the only thing I feel I can do, and impulsively I begin to bang my head on the wall. Softly at first, and then slightly harder. I notice that for a millisecond each time, my thoughts go silent. No more ghost. I savor its absence, no matter its brevity.
        I hit my head over and over, harder and harder. Between each bang, the ghost begins to creep back in. It’s like a constant battle, to see who will win- obsession or blackness.
        Dazed, my head is finally fuzzy enough that although the ghost is still there, its presence bothers me less. I learn the folly of resistance, and concede defeat. I don’t know if I can sleep tonight, I don’t know how loud it will be tomorrow, but I begin to realize that it will always be here with me. G-H-O-S-T.


    (image: Utagawa Kunisada, c. 1830 Edo, Japan colour woodblock)


  7. a visitor fom outside

    The man dressed in dark colors looked tall as he walked beside the woman of indeterminable age.  She was short, but her proportions made her look like a woman of normal stature.  This distortion made the man appear tall, although he was almost exactly average height.  They both appeared younger than they really were to most observers, although a select few mistook them to be older than their true age. 
        They walked hand in hand along a dirt path.  More green than their four eyes had ever seen surrounded them.  He remarked on the ramshackle train parked behind the far fence up ahead. 
        -I wish it were moving.  If it were coming really fast down the tracks, I’d jump on it with you.  We could take the train, we could go anywhere.
        -We could go anywhere now, she remarked with the gusto of half a heart.
        -No, it would have to be a split second decision.  It would have to be, now, or never.
        She stopped and stared at the train in either direction.
        -I can’t see where it starts and I can’t see where it ends.  What good will that ever do me?  I wonder why it’s just stopped here.  Looking so abandoned.  It seems to be as long as this entire town…  I don’t want to stare at it anymore.
        The man led her in a direction that faced their backs to the tracks.  They came to a little wooden bridge and sat down.  Something about the colors and quality of the pale gray sky and a singular tree two-thirds of the way to the right of their vision field made the man and the woman both feel like they were in a painting.
        -This feels like one of those paintings by that artist I hate, he said with a concise laugh.
        -I was just feeling the painting thing too. A dull composition, especially if you think landscape replicas are terribly outdated and boring.  But I feel neutral about it, about being in it. 
        -Yeah, I guess, he said.  Time has been going by so strangely.  Really quickly, but while I’m in it, also really slowly.
        The woman laughed, her face alit.
        -Time is not real.  It’s becoming less apparent.
        -Time is not real.  Ok, but if it exists, it must still serve a purpose.
        -Re-incarnation is not really linear at all, what if.  Your soul could be occupied in several other place-times right now as we speak.
        -But there is no now, if time isn’t real.
        -There is only now, since time isn’t real!  My soul is also possibly an alien in a tetrachromic spaceship on a 7 dimensional pilgrimage right now.
        -Probably so! And my soul is living in the past as a 14th Century Sorcerer, and the reason I will become impotent and gray-haired prematurely is the karmic tie from my Sorceror self’s deeds, chiefly, 14th C me is burying a virgin child alive as part of my initiation into a magickal alliance.
    -You’re gonna need a lot more karma than impotence for live child burial!
    -Parapalegia inducing accident?
    -Ok well supposing non-dualism is the correct hypothesis, and supposing no time, then our souls are all one.  We are everybody that is, has ever been, and will ever be.  I don’t even understand my soul anymore at this point of things.  I’m living as everything else, everyone else, all at once.  Why did I come here at all?  Am I actually unique?
    -Your handprint is unique.
    -No, mathemetically there is a replica of my handprint.  There are an impossible number of near replicas of me and then there are even some exact replicas.  Math never lies.
    -Oh math most certainly does lie!  Look at Newton and Einstein.  When math gets to the level of expressing spiritual phenomena and multi-dimensionality, then I will give up my work as a life artist and become a mathematician.
    -Well that could be interesting, seeing as how you always say you are horrible at math because you see numbers as colors. 
    -I’ll use synthesthesia as a tool to rewrite the entire mathematic language.
    -Mozart used a picture of a rose to write a symphony.
    -You always did love that story.
        The man called Hanuman stood up and offered his hand to the woman.  She gazed up at him, interlaced her fingers in his and joined him at eye level.  Or what felt like eye level to her.  He was almost a foot above her she realized, but her perception had a talent for raising her up to meet the stature of the majority, who all had a larger skeleton than her own.
        -Look at the goofy cartoon spiders, Hanuman said, pointing back down to the grass.  Aren’t they funny?  I’ve been noticing them ever since I got here.  Hoards of them are out crawling over the brush oh so goofily each morning.
        They laughed as they watched the little grey-brown creatures, noting internally that the clumsy motions were only an appearance.  The spiders’ paths were coordinated and perfectly suiting their hunter-forager purposes.  The words “bizarre pirouette” lit up in Noor’s brain.  Hanuman’s phrase.  He was an expert at introducing his favorite ideas into the lexicon via his favorite type of anchor, memorable turns of phrase.
        They walked to another bench beneath a small grove of trees. 
        -Would you like to sit down? I have something I want to give you.
        Hanuman produced an item from his pocket and held it out to Noor.  A maroon piece of string piercing the center of a clear bead.
        -It’s a consciousness band.  I made one for myself as well.  Here, let me tie it around your wrist… is that too tight?
    Noor shock her head, smiling.
        -This is the only type of gift I like. Thank you.
        -The bead is your consciousness.  The string is everything else.  I had to steal the string and the beads from the arts and crafts supplies.
        -I love it.  I’m glad you made mine with a clear bead.  I want the symbol of my consciousness to be clear.
        -Oh, I didn’t think of that, well, I’m glad you like it.
        The man and the woman sat side by side on the bench beneath the trees, knowing the visiting hours were almost over.  He probably would have been more comfortable being called a boy.  She would have referred to herself as a girl.  The time began to press more urgently upon their minds.  She knew any second now he would say it was about time to get going.  I don’t want to have to part from you, he would say.  I don’t either, she would reply.  She fidgeted with the visitor identification badge clipped to her purse strap.  He held her hand. 


    (image: Slumber Minotaurus” by Edgar-T http://bit.ly/YBHFIj)


  8. the severed boy

       Throughout everything, you have been there. You have driven me, motivated me to live with your undying rhythm. Tourette’s Syndrome- you send hot pulses through my nervous system like a lover. Every morning I wake with you at my side.
        I remember, as a small child, you came to me as an apparition. I had an imaginary friend who lived in my head. He was a dismembered boy, his body severed at the torso. His intestines hung out, dangling beneath him as he hovered. Truly ghastly, but he was my friend.
        We argued constantly. He would try to tell me what to do, I resisted. He usually won, got his way. I asked him how he got hurt.  Was it some sort of accident? He would never tell me, remaining forever silent on the subject.
        He disappeared around the age of eight, about the time that I was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. I missed him. It wasn’t really until recently, in adulthood, that I began to understand what he was.
        At such an early age, I couldn’t actually realize what Tourette’ syndrome was. Although I was a verbose child, I had no words by which to describe what was going on, so I saw it as a phantasm.
        I still love my Tourette’s, as I loved that severed boy. I had to battle with it all through childhood. Teachers yelled at me, berating me to sit still. I was constantly put down and embarrassed in front of my peers.  I remember a teacher referring to me as “the ADD kid.” It hurt.
        This is when my journey through psychiatry began. It is a long story, with several specialists and countless drugs. Prior to my diagnosis, it was speculated that I may have a brain tumor. Between my ticks and the intense migraines I was experiencing at the time, it was hard to tell what was going on. Doctors in white coats casually handed out multiple theories. I endured countless MRIs. My confusion and fear were met with sterile, professional indifference.
        In one of the more interesting sessions, I sat in a dark room with numerous electrodes glued to my head. A strobe light was flashed at me, on and off, at varying speeds. For some reason, the doctor would not let me look at the test results, which were sketched out in an array of undulating lines. The glue from the electrodes was hard to wash out of my hair.
        At first, the diagnosis hit me like a life sentence. My mom did some research on Tourette’s, and realized how much my behavior was caused by the syndrome. Things like always leaving one little bite of my food on my plate, fixating on single words and spelling them over and over in my head.
        As I matured, I grew into my Tourette’s. I learned to shape its rhythm. Looking back on it, it seems more like it grew with me, around me. It has always seemed to have a mind of its own.
        By adolescence, the severed boy seemed to have faded away. I was an awkward and outspoken boy. My Tourette’s was no longer an article of shame. I wore it as a badge. I wanted to be different, to stand out. In a way, it was a coping mechanism to deal with years of estrangement and ridicule.
        This wasn’t all positive, though, and the Tourette’s still tormented me in its persistent, nagging way. I was a fragmented and depressed teenager. I felt a stirring inside of me and a restlessness I could not calm.
        What followed was a hectic dance of alcohol, hard drugs, and punk music.
    The drugs were a way to escape what it felt like inside of my head. It may sound cliche, but I had found a way to surround myself with other severed children.
        Addiction welcomed me readily. My growth was stunted both spiritually and emotionally. I continued to feel completely alone in confronting my perceived flaws. I felt like I was so different that nobody could ever understand me. Reaching out was hard and I eventually gave up on it altogether. The severed boy had faded long ago, and I began to forget him entirely. I went to rehab for the first time at the age of eighteen. It didn’t stick.
        Drugs consumed and tormented me. It seemed my struggle with Tourette’s was minuscule in comparison. I was lost in myself, and lost my perspective.
        There was so much I could not see. I built walls around myself, so tall that nobody could scale them. I could not see how my syndrome and my addiction were woven together in an intricate and invisible web. I still struggle to untangle it, and to even understand it.
        Now, that imaginary friend from my childhood comes back from time to time, to remind me of who I am. I see him in the mirror as well as in my past. It has taken me so many years and so much struggle to see that he was so much more than an embodiment of my neural wiring. He is me, he is everything that I am. I am that severed boy, seeking meaning and love in order to make himself whole.


    (image: Daehyun Kim, illustration for Tim Kreider’s article ‘You Are Going to Die’)