Clean Up The Sides, And A Little Off The Top

“No fear of that.”

I’m still thinking of the words, how they felt and tasted as I spoke them
Like water, like air, like nothing at all
A flavor grown undetectable from its prolific presence in my environment
I think of the words as I buy a bucket of protein powder the size of my head
To see if I’m the kind of person who drinks protein powder

I think of them as I cruise down US 31
Listening to the radio because my phone is dead
Some new song by Ed Sheeran playing on a soft rock channel
A tickle at my eyes as I wonder if someone is falling in love to this song tonight
And try to remember the last time I fell in love with someone who had a name

The words jingle with the bells above the door of the $4 cupcake store
I order a $4 cupcake, because the universe will one day constrict to the size of an proton
And I want to know what a $4 cupcake tastes like before that happens
I hope the salted caramel frosting costs $3, because it’s my favorite part

I eat it in my car, because I don’t think my apartment can handle fancy cupcakes
Watching an employee in the restaurant across from me doing the two-step
Returning to professional as a manager comes back around the bend
And I think about the words
And the spaces around them

I went in for my regular haircut
If regular can describe something that happens three times a year
The stylist and I chat as the dead parts of me fall to the ground
About generation gaps, the right to refuse service, and male pattern baldness
The trait skips generations, she tells me
So if my dad had it, it’ll skip me, but affect my kids, and I say

“No fear of that.”

I don’t think about the words or what they mean
But the way they came out, unconscious, instinctual
Something I’ve grown accustomed to saying
A thought I don’t think about any more

Ed Sheeran finishes his song
And makes room on the radio for someone who sounds like Ed Sheeran
But with occasional screaming
I throw the cupcake box into a public trash bin
I respect my apartment enough to pretend that I’m not having affairs with $4 cupcakes
And drive home
Wondering what other things I’ve been saying that I no longer think about.

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If Music Be The Food Of Love, I Have A Severe Dietary Imbalance

I’m the worst kind of romantic
In love with the idea of love
Obsessed with infatuation
A dreamer who dreams only of dreaming

I write odes to ideas
Sonnets to silhouettes of people I have never met
I’m besotted by my imagination
Masturbating to myth and mystery

My mind rejects reality in pursuit of perfection
But what perfection can an imperfect mind create?
Idealization turns to self-love
Turning in turn to self-loathing

I have yet to admit I have a problem
Even now I’m tempted to change the wording above
Make these failings of mine seem noble
Paint my selfishness with a coat of altruism

Maybe I’ll rewrite this as a bit of free verse
A performance, not a cry for help
A twinge of self-awareness reinterpreted as Punch-and-Judy
Mental illness always plays better that way

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Thoughts From the CD Rack

Sometimes I notice something in my apartment out of the corner of my eye and rediscover something I’ve had in plain sight for so long that I’ve forgotten about it. Today my eyes fell across my CD tower, and now I’m looking through all these albums and thinking about the different version of me who collected them.

It’s mostly 90s/00s Christian pop. That was most of my music exposure through high school, and even after that, the music I felt most okay about spending money on.

There’s a small collection of Mark Schultz albums. His self-titled album was the first CD I ever owned. A friend gave it to me on my 13th birthday. More than half my life ago, now. That friend and I had anti-birthdays, exactly six months apart. I don’t remember if I got him anything.

I actually still like his stuff somewhat. Most of these songs are basically short stories, many of them filled with dying children, failing marriages, and a sense of loss and sadness that is usually missing from the relentless cheerfulness of most contemporary Christian music. I used to listen to these albums over and over again, addicted to the catharsis I could squeeze out of them.

On the other end of that spectrum are a couple albums by FFH…as close to a full embodiment of that cheerful Christian pop as I can find on my shelf. In my defense, this had something to do with a girl I liked in high school, though for the life of me, I can’t remember why. For one reason or another, a synapse formed between thoughts of that girl and thoughts of that album, and led to me liking it for far longer than was good for me.

There’s a Bill Cosby comedy album. A bit awkward to be holding on to now, I suppose. I’m not sure what the consensus is on what to do with the works of public figures when their personal misconduct overshadows their creative careers. It’s the one with a half-hour-long story about staying up late and goofing around with his brother. I remember my dad introducing me to this album. It felt like a rite of passage, like being admitted to a secret club of comedy-listeners. It’s one of the better memories I have of my dad.

On the shelf below that is an eclectic collection of musical and movie soundtracks: Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, and Kill Bill Vol. 1. Then there’s a U2 album I’ve never listened to, a Thousand Foot Krutch CD I’ve listened to but never taken out of the plastic wrap, and two copies of Brave Saint Saturn’s second album, in case I ever need a backup.

I have a pretty complete collection of Five Iron Frenzy albums. They were one of my favorite bands for a long time–a predilection I vampired from someone at college, as I did with most of the things I liked. Panic! at the Disco came from my freshman-year roommate, Sara Bareilles from my sophomore-year girlfriend, and I don’t know where all these Anberlin albums came from, but it’s a safe bet that I didn’t find them on my own.

The first thing I remember liking on my own was The Beatles…and I realize how bullshit that sounds. But somehow I made it to senior year of college without ever hearing their music. I knew they existed, but I’d been in a Beatles vacuum for 20 years, with the exception of an spoken-word rendition of She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) that my dad got stuck in his ‘singing’ repertoire.

But I found a CD of Sgt. Pepper for $1 and decided to give it a try. Fell in love pretty much overnight. When I moved out of my college dorm, my last roommate (I had four in four years) and I carried furniture and boxes of books down three flights of stairs singing a manic, abbreviated three-fourths-remembered version of this album in our best (read: worst) impressions of Lennon and McCartney.

That’s what these all ultimately come down to, the reason I’m still holding onto them. Not for the music…with Youtube and Spotify, there are easier ways to listen to the ones I still like. I’m keeping them for the memories.

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Self-Titled Albumen

My thoughts are an egg
Cook for just the right time
And out pops an omelet of meter and rhyme

My thoughts are an egg
Cook for one second less
And then the yolk is all runny, and you cut into it and it gets, you know, it gets all over the plate, and now you’ve got egg yolk soaking into the pancake at the bottom of the stack, and now it’s seeping into the hash browns too, not just a little bit, but like all the way through the hash browns, and it’s just, just, just a godawful mess.

Posted in Humor, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

La Femme Must be Free

La femme must be free
You cannot lock her in a tower
Tie a string about her ankle
Or forswear her from conversing with or knowing other hommes

How can you cherish what is chained?
How can you treasure what is trapped?
How can you love what you cannot lose?

La femme must be free
To love or to leave
Because leave she will
Either the leaving of the free
Out the front door, whole and vibrant
Or the leaving of the caged
A leaving of inches, death by daily death of self
‘Til nothing remains but bones of a soul

An embrace is no embrace that cannot be escaped
A kiss is no kiss that cannot be refused
A serenade is no serenade that cannot be ignored
A hope is no hope that cannot be disappointed

La femme must be free
You must never be sure of her
Safe in her, secure in her
Every day must bear the terror of her parting
And the joy of her staying
Sharpened by its transience

So love her, garçon
Give her your all while she remains
And grudge her none of it when she is gone

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The One About Sex

I’ve been thinking about sex lately.

That’s nothing new, of course, but the way I’ve been thinking about it has been different this year.

Rewind to New Years: I’m ringing in the year with some friends, and after a few rounds of intoxicating, someone suggests we play Never Have I Ever. And it quickly becomes apparent that I have never have I evered basically everything. Which I expected. What I didn’t expect was this: My friends thought this was weird.

I should back up again. I grew up homeschooled. And homeschooled in the conservative Christian Midwest. So my friends at the time were generally either other homeschoolers or kids from my church. Abstinence was the norm, not the exception. There were probably people shacking up by high school age, but they certainly never let it show. As far as evidence was concerned, our homeschool co-op was chock full o’virgins.

Then I went to college. Specifically, to a conservative Christian college in the Midwest. Not BJU crazy, but still fairly old-fashioned. Our student conduct policy (I’m sorry, “Life Together Covenant”) forbade dangerous activities like smoking, drinking, and “social dancing”.

And you knew that the jocks were probably getting it on with the cheerleaders, and that there was a reason the secluded TV area was called “The Passion Pit” (No, not because they used it for showings of Passion of the Christ). But even there, nobody would really openly admit to doing anything toooo sexual. There was a tacit understanding of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, and of pretending that absolutely nothing was going on.

So now I’m in my late 20s, and for the first time in my life, I have friends who think it’s weird that I’m a virgin. And that means I have to actually examine what I really think about sex, where before, I could always just ignore it. And the conclusion I’ve come to is…I have no fucking idea.

Like violent car crashes, sex was always something that just happened to other people. If I liked a girl, there was some thought in the back of my mind that if I liked her, and she liked me, and then we started dating, and then we got engaged, and then we got married, that eventually, somewhere down the line, there would be sex waiting. And that sounded cool, but it was all very abstract.

And then, of course, there was masturbation. But masturbation really isn’t sex. There’s no risk involved, no vulnerability, no relationship, no emotional connection. It’s just fulfilling an urge, like sleeping or eating.

I’ve got a lot of emotions tangled up with my thoughts about sex. There’s still an instinctual feeling of guilt that triggers at sexual fantasies (probably a holdover from religious upbringing). I worry about getting into a relationship I feel trapped in, or of leaving that relationship and letting down someone who depended on me. And on the flipside, I worry about becoming emotionally dependent on someone who would leave me.

It’s been a good year for conversations about these sorts of things. I’ve had talks with friends who are married, single, asexual, pansexual, demisexual, and it’s been really helpful to hear from people who relate to this issue in so many different ways.

Sometimes I wish there was a word that summed up the way I feel about sex. I’ve considered asexuality and demisexuality, but neither of them seems to fit. I don’t have a lack of sexual attraction, or feel it only in the midst of a strong emotional connection.

I feel like a firehose that hasn’t found a fire yet. Not like I’m bursting at the seams, unable to contain myself…just at the ready, should an inferno present itself.

Well, thanks for letting me bare my soul in this free therapy session, internet. I’d promise to write more often, but you probably know by now that my writing habits are even more inconsistent than my sexuality. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Sex, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Never a Dull Moment in the Garden of Kinesthesia

I’d forgotten how it felt to not feel
Not hurt, not ache or pain
No thrim-throb in the brim-brain
No anxieties about now, tomorrow, yesterday
No scrumbled thoughts of ‘What’d I say’
This amnesia is electrifying
And I want to turn it switchabout
Forget all that came before
Before the numb
Before the hushing of the zim-zum
I’ll make a palace here
Construct it of silence and peace of mind
Invite all my friends over for tea
And never worry if there’s not enough sugar to go around

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment