what i do on the plane

22 11 2006


Flight 481 nonstop to Chicago now boarding. Would Nicholas Ishmael please come to the information desk.

Nick walked (quite slowly in fact) with his carry-on luggage including Mira, his four-year-old daughter. They approached the desk and Mira saw upon the attendant’s face a half-smile, one that made you feel comfortable but at the same time fake and forced so that in the confusion you felt all the more strange. Nick promised the brown-eyed Mira, “Stay here with the lady, my princess; there was a problem with one of our bags, I will be right out.”

He walked into the small interrogation room was shot quietly in the forehead, bent over towards the desk, and died. There was a man standing behind him to catch him and place a cloth over his forehead to cover the bleeding. The woman and the man left Nick in the small stainless steel compartment. Mira stood outside sobbing, waiting hopefully and as patiently as any toddler could, for two hours before anyone claimed her.

At 2:00 that day, Nick had been in a rush to get Mira dressed and ready for the airport. Packing a few days worth of clothes, her toys, a few movies, and her teddy bear into a small blue child-sized suitcase, Nick left Mira in the car for about five minutes. Outside, Mira watched at the opposite end of the street (the one Nick would not drive towards on his way to the airport). Mira witnessed a car accident; steel and steel came together rapidly consuming a small family of four and not the one drunken teenager. Nick was inside, reviewing his notes for the last time about how to pass a small handgun through security. He was ready, God willing.

Immediately upon entering the car, Nick turned on the ignition. Mira was crying in the backseat, but he neither cared to hear what it was about nor could – his music player was pounding sound at full volume. He was dedicated to the goal in a way. It consumed him in his sleep, and in the morning he could not recall his dreams. Mira seemed to be in the way, her wailing seemed to penetrate his harmonic focus. He turned once, only once, glaring at her in such a distant and unfatherly way that she internalized her tears with her face sinking into the dim, gloomy corner of childhood.

The young vivacious Mrs. Ishmael who bestowed upon little Mira all her beautiful features died in a Chicago suburb doing an interview for the Times. Nick’s wife had gone to a small liberal arts college becoming famous for her redefining essay on literary theory. The essay was published in a number of translations and is now included as either a subsequent essay or as a preface to many novels. Her death sparked a wealth of empathy for Nicholas and Mira nationally; the whole case was notorious for its confusion – the body was recovered but lost, the police captured a runinng suspect but instead convicted him for a different homicide done on the same night in Texas. Her name became a symbol for the failed social attempt towards progress. She was a flickering candle of literary genius, a proven hero who had redefined the postmodern movement.

Twelve days earlier to his flight, Nick received a single cryptic phone call: “Bring Mira – you will not lose her. Bring a gun – we have the man, you will have one chance. Bring your strength, the one we have seen on television, and see to it that one of the greats of our era has not perished in vain. We will send you information.”

In truth, beneath the state of calm anger he seemed to exude towards Mira, Nick was nervous. Driving towards the airport, he feared for Mira’s life as well as his own. Mira, “lovely Mira,” he thought. Nick thought about his wife and how hard it was at first for Mira to understand that Mommy was not going to come home tonight. He remembered explaining to Mira that Mommy was never coming home and how Mira had cried. She thought her father was keeping Mommy away, she pleaded with Nick to stop hurting her. “Mommy would never leave me. You just took her away. Please Daddy I want her back, please. Please.” Nick had hardly felt human then. About a few weeks later, Mira found him crying alone in his bed and gave him a hug saying, “I’m sorry Daddy. We both miss Mommy.”

He knew that they would not let him down, the group whoever they were had proven themselves over the last few days. Like a God that answers faith, Nick asked for a sign and they showed brilliantly. He won at the races, he got a raise, he saw letters written in the sky. Even once, just once, they sent him a girl for the night. But he was still shaking, trembling in fear. Passing the gun through security. For a brief second he asked himself, “If they could arrange all this, why did they not arrange for the gun?”

To Comfort the Sad

11 11 2006

One Winter’s Afternoon

I remember a girl from years ago,
She ran away with me to the winter,
And thought it nothing much at all,

She kept me warm at her expense,
But when I went to get her coffee,
The old girl had changed, someone had left.

She drank from the coffee, bitter and hurt,
Embracing the coldness of a winter alone,
My promises fell on cold eyes once more,

So I slipped and I fell, we both laughed,
She took to her feet, coffee in hand,
Crying and frustrated with my errors, I knew,

Thought her too disappointed to keep,
Too much love, and I so believed neither of us could leave,
But she walked out, it was Christmas Eve.

I ran outside to comfort her in the snow,
Where she knelt beside winter, crying alone,
And the bitter taste had gone, but the comfort too was lost,

So maybe my arms warmed her,
Or perhaps it was the drink,
But I’d like to think that she didn’t need anything but me.

Still, I’d failed so many times before,
She couldn’t count on me (or so I thought),
And that was why she had to leave,

But to every winter there is a spring,
So she forgot untracked debts still lingering,

And when I brought my girl some more coffee,
She sat down and smiled forever at me.

I Cannot Imagine

11 11 2006

An Excuse To Live

She pretends to be something for tomorrow because she is not anything today. Between the measures of talent and effort, she certainly leans on the latter, but to say she is verdantly alive, struggling against the tides of the world, is only to believe what she would have you believe. She simplifies the present to convert it into something manageable: I am her lover, you are her audience, and the world her vice. Should I say she is alive? Perhaps, the singing voice in the shower tricks me, makes me believe so.

Life is not life, if it is unexamined. Love, too. She walks by, on the street with not so much as a passing thought on what it means to be human, only concerning herself with the style of the day. I see her, and I see what she would be without me, I can taste the lip gloss on my lips, feel my hand on her bare waist, see the mascara that shades her eyes like a second blindness. The tasteless fashion of it all, and none of it her taste – only that preordained by everyone else. Beyond this, I see the expression of an unneccesary individual’s soul, like an imprint, transformed out of nothing.

To be in love, to fully dissolve into another’s soul; a fertile, restless union of souls binding upon itself, clamoring, not man or woman, such love cannot grow from this sort of ghost. She trusts in me, like a blind man led to his execution, but not innocently. It is a perverse trust, one that presumes too much, one that casts off her responsibility. Her emotional fragility, this feminine construct, is merely a guise (unconscious as it is) to draw me closer. In her opinion, the past is irrevocable, mistakes or not, and therefore not worth consideration. But in her future, so fantastically intangible, she finds redemption, glory, and the person she would like to be. Perhaps she has not become this person, perhaps she is not on track to become this person, perhaps because she is, quite simply, not this person.

I asked her today: tomorrow morning, what will you believe is worth living for? She said, “You.” So tragically rehearsed. So mechanical. But her reflex was like yours; why do you live – love, kids, spouse, family. When we are young and therefore immature, we live for ourselves and those around us live for us as well. When we are older and therefore mature, we live for ourselves and pretend we love. We are so secure in our fashions, we believe that no one completely understands love, that everyone experiences it, that no one can judge it, and all so that we never question anything. We fear “cognitive dissonance,” when actions and beliefs conflict, so much that we cannot imagine comparing these two. So we all live for love, a love of others that we cannot define, cannot substantiate, cannot prove, show, or reproduce. Convenient.

She does not live, but merely pretends to, along with everyone else in city, save for a precious few dying souls seeking out each other desperately. These souls, I fear, walk quietly, because to be alive is more than can be seen. To be alive is to ignore what is not inspiring and rise above it, which is I fear not to listen to the noise sometimes. I do not owe her anything, to be bound to someone in terms of a relationship or anything, requires more than a passing shadow to be attached to. And so I pass, under the guise of being a good honest gentleman, privately dating to find another soul worth loving. I cannot imagine a more honest life.

On Dying

9 11 2006


Spill from me
The soul of you;
Oh dying stare
As your children
Leave your side,
What drinks you drink,
What things you think,
And what maturity,
As your children leave,
You alone concede,
Alone, alone, alone,
Again, you say, to sleep.



In her pinkish pool,
Amanda looked more alive than ever
And in her mother’s face was death,
Her father (so proud) did not cry,
As if he’d seen it all before,

So strange the luxury,
Of living between the here and there,
And in a way we all are dead,
Her parents living on this side
Of the dark, dark door.


For What Life Might Be

The light leaves the room,
A soul lost to darkness,
A son murders his father,
A girl gives birth to a son,
A man takes a girl,
A mother beats a man,
A husband drinks with a mother,
A life is given to a husband,
To a mother, and a man,
A girl, a son, another father,
A life to all. A fair, fair life.
But the light leaves the room.


Composition VII

Shapes fell and formed a face,
None which nature could so arrange.


To Live

I don’t fear dying, I fear not having lived. What dreams may come will come, or if they be nothings, then the emptinesses must in the end suffice. Yet when I, at some far and future date, begin to die, when I know this, what will I say about today? It is likely nothing. And still, there are certain days where any sane man would have gone back to the war just to escape them, or given up a year just to relive them. The fiery arrows and crimson flushes of our lives live on into our retirement. Those singular moments must, when the time calls, fill the forgotten today’s. I will not have lived, but I will have lived. I hope.

For A Grandfather

7 11 2006

There he was. A grandfather, wise and storied, holding what I could only presume to be his granddaughter. There was mud on their shoes, on the stroller too, perhaps they had taken a stroll around the Commons. I wondered where the girl was born, who she might grow up to be, places she would travel to. She was still pure, immaculate – tabula rasa. Infinite potentials limited by constantly limiting experiences. In his arms, she knew she was safe, taken care of. He could understand her garbled words, her first attempts at language, so unabashedly thrown out, so lovingly received; when will she learn to become embarrassed? On the playgrounds, the sleepovers, or the lunchtables?

She strectched her arms out as if to embrace her desired thing, that unknown unexpressible beyond her grasp. Of course, it was Grandpa’s job to translate, but in this case he could not and from nowhere, like magic, he pulls out a small biteable chocolatechip cookie. I smile, as she does not know me and may never. But to me now they are beautiful; a photograph unworthy of the photographer, the elderly and the young, like light seeping in through a crack, beautiful. He could be my grandpa, too, I think. And maybe, that’s me in his arms. That’s the beauty of it, I suppose, there in the photograph, under the wrinkles and wrinkleless exteriors we see two bound by family, untouched, unbothered by the shouting man captured still on his left. The scene is alive and yet at the center are Grandpa and the little girl, too archetypal to embody the life of an individual, only as a form, and ideal, with only the distinct personalities of a child and a grandfather, of any child and any grandfather.

A Tranquil Glow

1 11 2006

Time For No One

Dawn breaks, and I know I am blind before I open my eyes. The warm deceptive tranquil glow of the rippling water trickles into the side of my head and into my dreams, warm as milk and honey, smooth as ink, ageless as any girl. I remember a childhood, an adulthood, a retirement, and a death, and again the world spinning forward. I, I carry on too, learning more each time, but always blind. Sometimes pitied and sometimes hated, born into good families and murderous ones too. Once I did not make it past childhood. I can still remember the feeling of the cold metal against warm, running flesh then the flash of realization, then the nothing. The world, I tell you is not captured in a photograph, or embodied by a culture, limited to a morality, or in any sense sensible. Life is not better understood by the old, they are merely given respect and listened to.

I was born once in a town not far from where you were born. I don’t mean where you grew up, but where you were born. That hospital, I was there too, in this life, and I remember the look upon my parents’ face – how deceived they were that this girl was their child. Once in high school, I watched a girl commit suicide over her perfectionism; she would rather die than fail. Her long hair was without curls – black, and her face had this remarkably unique cream-colored complexion. I was only fourteen then, not with the wisdom I have earned again (and again, each time). It is the power to recall these lives that chases me in my dreams, that forces me to turn, turn, turn never to believe in certain practical ideas like time. Because anything, I’d give anything to die, to go back, for things to shake, settle, hospitalize.