Ouroboros in Arkadia

I changed the name and look of this site for several reasons. First, I am not inclined only to write poetry or creative prose. I am inclined to roar in the aftermath of this election. I wanted thr site to convey a cleaner message, with fewer artistic flourishes that may distract from the message. I wanted it to be more readable, and the current template provides that.

Now, the name. An “ouroboros” is a snake consuming itself starting with its own tail. Arkadia, in addition to my own personal childhood paradise, is a mythical dwelling of the Greek god Pan. So, a self-consuming snake in paradise, that is the image. Make of it what you will. For me it’s a powerful image of this moment in our history.

As always, thank you for reading. Expect more blogging about my take on the current events.

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Cutting Corners

My latest piece of flash prose published in Philly-based Cleaver Magazine. Fantastic experience working with the editor Karen Rile. And what an honor to appear alongside such skilled writers!

For a butter knife it was sharp. My grandmother must have had it for a long time. Its blade was truncated by a fracture, rust collecting at the end of its one-inch length, at the site of the break. I was never sure if she kept it because of some sentimental attachment or a deep-seated sense of Soviet scarcity made more acute by the still fresh memories of the deprivations of the Great War, which was only two decades behind her. I was attached to my distorted reflection looking back at me from its heavy silver handle. [Read more]

Given what we know today

Let’s get right down to it: I have been obsessing about death. No particular reason other than just being alive, and that this life is bookended by birth and death. Birth I’ve done; death is still on the menu. So I obsess, I fear, I catastrophise, I project. I think about all kinds of scenarios, but I cannot quite trace them all the way to their logical ends.

Was it Roosevelt who said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”? I saw this today, felt it, contemplating my own mortality. What was this fleeting ghost of a feeling? When I queried myself, really pushed, to understand what exactly was so fearsome, so crushing, it was the fear of feeling fear, fear of uncontrollable anxiety. I was actually afraid that it would be the thing without an end. As if anything lasted forever.

What am I really afraid of? My cosmology envisions a grinding halt, the flicking of the body’s off switch, a dissolution of proteins, nucleic acids, organelles into their components, a recycling of amino acids, bases, cholesterol molecules, an enzymatic holocaust sowing the seeds of progeny. Then I realized what was worrying me: consciousness, I am obsessed with my own consciousness. What about it? I know my molecules, atoms, subatomic particles will survive and reconstitute. But what about my consciousness? And why does it matter so much? Why do we want consciousness to go on in perpetuity, like some Faustian contract? Would we want Trump’s consciousness to persist? Hitler’s? Stalin’s?

This being a uniquely human fear, animals seem to ignore the whole conundrum, although how would we know if they weren’t? We obsess and perseverate. We make up stories — heaven, hell, God, devil, saints, cherubim, seraphim, entire pantheons of mythical creatures to help us prop up our need to believe in our own infinity. Heaven and hell are carrot and stick, the price for basking in this laudanum-infused illusion. Just like rats in a maze, it’s primitive operant conditioning, sugar cubes and electricity, heaven and hell, blessed and damned, all biologically determined.

And reincarnation? Another myth I can neither prove nor disprove. As things stand today, as a scientific theory it is decidedly uninteresting; as a philosophy it is seductive but far-fetched. “Given what we know so far…” This should preface any belief, any conjecture, given the state of the knowledge to date. This is true for climate change, origins of the universe, fracking and cancer — given what we know now, I believe… Tattoo this on your forearm and chant it every night before you sleep. The ultimate prayer, a universal liturgy, “given what we know now, I believe…”

I can fantasize, make up parallel universes, alternate destinies for my soul. Whatever follows my last breath should not concern me now. It will be either nothingness, which is the opposite of bothersome, or perhaps my consciousness will join that universal consciousness that people on acid feel, the warm fuzzy belonging that fuels love and war. Or perhaps some acellular incarnation of myself will finally be able to frolic in all ten dimensions at the same time, reach out and touch the edge of space-time with its invisible fingers and weep at the reflection of God. Given what we know today, I believe…

When all was birth

And so it goes the world
Descends into the void again
With ancient echoes of a mother’s
Empty arms embracing darkness
Dead eyes and bodies and the blood
Beats out its hungry rhythm

In streets monosyllabic borders
Spring like concentric rings of thorns
An endless maze of nos swells
Like the aftermath in their imaginations

Beware there is no hate but fear
That tongues its serpentine ascent
A curtained missile launched to rob
The blind their dreams of being dreamt

The silent prophets of the subway trains
Their mothers’ eyes are in my skull and yours
The nerves that tether us to everything we are
There is no them or us or pain or lust
There’s only water and the sky just as it was
When all was birth and birth and birth

What’s next

On the eve of illegitimacy
How can I condone this destruction
Yet how can I stop it?
The laws, godlike, are here to hold
Replicas of devoured extinction
Heat seeps into the crevices we create
Slips into my irises burning like a
Forest fire consuming that which is ready
Making fertility possible for what’s next

When we were innocent

My grandmother shredded boiled beef
— Knife silver with a truncated blade
Rust at the fracture site
Straight cut replacing the curve
Handle a heavy funhouse mirror —
For my grandfather in his bed
Paralyzed, mute, eyes piercing, whiskers sharp
Smells of lye soap and resignation
Coarse in the living room

People pour into our communal flat
Whispers, vodka, stuffed eggs,
Salami with pickle wedges
My mother’s late-night battle
After work and before suspicion
Towers over me with no eye contact
A brush of fingers a silent “no more”
(Walks in park, fishing)
At seven I know the rules
Such things are not spoken
In those days we were
To remain innocent