when we were younger, little brother, your eyes would light up when you sputtered stories from the books you devoured during quiet hour. and though it was dark i knew your eyes sparked the same as you built imaginary worlds long after our bedtime, because i could catch the wonder in your voice.
the years went on and took their toll, and we left our legos behind at mom and dads. though i couldn’t point out where or how, i feel that we left our wondering eyes back home as well. the way we stole away into the attic to pour over dad’s old board games, and wrote whole stories or planets into school notebooks. how mom laughed at the way you and i would race each other through books she kept feeding us, steadier than the gallons of milk we drank with reckless abandon. she was always trying to trick us out of those glasses of milk, wasn’t till we had our own place that we realized how much money it cost to feed us.
that apartment was almost the death of us, yet you can’t kill the wonder and i came to realize last week that you can’t kill the excitement of the little boy as he explains to his older brother the wonder of some distant universe.
it was out in that field in wyoming, when the stars lit up the grass around us and the band of the galaxy was painted in a brushstroke across the whole wide prairie sky. you should have hear your voice, tommy! the way your arms flailed across the sky pointing out every detail, your voice shaking from excitement trying to convey to me the sheer size and beauty of the universe. we were two bitter city rats out in a prairie field in the american midwest and i was almost crying at the awe of those stars.
you’ve still got that voice, though it’s been so long since the lego cities that i thought this dark world had choked the heart out of you. i hope you realize the stories you can paint with the excitement in your words. i hope you know that my imagination will always owe it’s influence to the boundless reaches of your mind. the innocence of the mind that always confused me when we were seven and eight. i get it better now, you’re a tour guide to this crazy adventure.
you’re the shaking voice of joy with arms sweeping across the milky way in the dark, pointing out the obvious. demanding we give attention to that which is due awe and wonder.
and all along i thought i was the hopeless romantic.
7.29 oswald gets it
weren’t you listening when i called you? my compelling command was childish in its simplicity.
your response should have been just as childish in its innocent response.
you’ve spent far too long trying to glance in front for some distant mountain, are you so blind and have traveled so little with me that you cannot taste and see?
the journey is leading toward no sacred shrine, open your eyes! it is i who woke you up and i who walks with you now. i am the goal of your journey, i am the holy mountain at which you come to rest.
my burden is light. and in my presence you will find rest for your soul. why have you spent so long worried sick with questions, when the answer needed nothing but the ears of a child.
i know now, lord, why you utter no answer. you are yourself the answer. before your face questions die away.
7.28 momma i’m only being honest
well i started smoking again, jesus, but you aren’t mad as my friend’s parents who see a picture or hear a rumor, are you. aren’t you pleased with me lord, because i’m quitting again today. i’m doing it for you, jesus. well, you and the teenage kids who i hear are asking questions. aren’t you proud of me lord?
what do you mean i’m not listening? you said surrender these things getting in the way, and this is my little american martyrdom, doesn’t this bring a smile to your face? aren’t you pleased to watch me burn down these idols, even if i must repeat the ceremony once a month or day?
all of me? oh lord don’t be so jealous, let me come to you in my good sweet time, let me cast aside these burdens at the last possible moment, allow me to keep a few items for the journey. i don’t believe you want to meet a traveler with truly empty, open hands. you’re being dramatic, jesus.
let’s strike a deal, lord. heal me of this heart disease, yet let me skip full surgery, frankly it’s a bit extreme.
all of me? you’re not listening! i want to surrender specific strongholds, not my whole landscape. truly lord i want to follow you, first let me go and bury my sins. this will take time, maybe we can meet up a bit further down the road. trust me, you don’t want me right now, i’m dirty and flailing, let me come to you when I’m cleaner.
what’s that you say? rest? oh lord i haven’t known rest for many years, these burdens are heavy to my shoulders, and none can make them lighter, least of all time.
all of me? if you mean what you say, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, if you can kneel down into my mess and touch me, jesus, then you can have all of me.
here i am again, sweet lord. i will pull apart my own ribs just to let your healing hands into my heart. through all the lies and doubts and guilt there still glimmers the light of truth in your eyes. that i was dirty when you died for me, i was broken when you let them break your body instead of mine. a truth so sweet to my ears that it overwhelmed me, that you loved me at my lowest.
all of me, jesus. all of me, in trade for just one touch of your healing hand.
all of me.
7.24 untitled, obviously
might suffocate from over-thinking in the heavy silence, damp and stifling. plagued by an unshakable certainty that i will never utter another inspiring word, never type out a scrap of decent writing, never capture a beautiful moment with a camera, and fail to ever again reach out with unseen hands to rouse the soul of another human being.
at this point it’s best to get out of bed and face the day anyway, and i find in the walk from my bed to the bathroom sink that the choking despair will slowly surrender to firmer realities, the icy cold in gulps of tapwater and the faint whispers of courage from the rustling leaves at the window.
so i press on, remembering far too fondly what was, hoping that i might raise my voice once more in the murmuring mass and howl, howl louder than the wildest wolf. that once more i might rise up and press into the joyful center of the dance, swept up in the sweaty chaos, dazzled by the lights, lost in a rhythm far richer than myself.
7.22 there’s a story under this title
i have this picture in my head, this moment really, and it’s moving. where i’m getting stuck is with all the fluff, all the body fat around this exquisite skeleton. this image is a photograph I can’t get out of my head. one of the kids in sunday school is autistic and always has a difficult time sitting through class, which isn’t the end of the world, except when he screams, kicks chalkboards, and pushes the teachers. thing is he’s got this beautifully tortured mind and he’s so passionate about whatever is stuck in his head on any given day. he’s the most difficult in my class, and also my favorite.
so this sunday he has a total meltdown, over his failure to correctly draw a snowflake, and he starts wailing and throwing markers. he ends up under the table, having successfully kicked away all the chairs and only narrowly missing his attempt to kick one of the teachers. we have to call his mom because he’s just losing it. and here we come to this scene in my mind, because what we’re all expecting at this point is for the mom to come in and be frustrated and just exhausted. we can’t handle him for an hour, she must be borderline mental having to monitor him twenty-four seven.
she comes through the door and sort of gets a glimpse of the scene. her son under the table, all the chairs kicked away, the closest person being me and i’m just trying to calm him down, all the other kids watching him from the craft table. and she walks over to us, kneels down to crawl under the table with him, and begins to rub his shoulder gently.
there was so much in that moment, in the contrast of her reaction to his actions, in the healing touch to his tortured mind. my mind sees it vividly but can’t capture it. i can’t do heaven justice.
7.15 the metaphorical resonance of it all
remember back when every moment was right out of our favorite films, coming to life out of all the cds we’d wear down in that shitty stereo you had propped up with your endless books. i swear i can still feel the lonely on my tongue from that winter we lived on ramen and the dark chocolate you brought me when things got low. you were right, though i couldn’t admit it then, i never inhaled when we’d blow through those packs out on the porch when it was you and me and not another human being who really knew us. we were too proud to let them in weren’t we, you wouldn’t even let me in all the way.
that’s what made it our own movie, tommy. it hurt like hell, and we hurt each other more than any of them ever could. you know what i’ve finally realized, two years apart from apartment thirty two, we were just blood when we packed the bags and bought two sets of silverware and found fat couches, but when we left you were my best friend. and i know neither of us would go back to that hole for anything, but every time i pass by on my way to mom and dad’s i thank God because that dirty flat was the battlefield of our love.
we’re older now and you know better than all of them that i’m still a piece of work, and the movie isn’t done yet, and some of it still hurts worse than anything. fact is the older i get the more i realize that some of this isn’t ever going to change. at times all you can do is find a friend to sit with, and take long drags on those little paper killing machines our mother hates so much, to watch the smoke fade away almost as fast as every hope and dream we’ve ever had. to watch it all fade, and to laugh with the only friend who truly knows you. and so this is what happens every time i get a minute to think, or an image i take makes me remember the movie we’ve been in these past years. i sit down to feverishly type it all out, and i get near to tears thanking God that i’ve got you.
they say you’re not a boy anymore, tommy. they say you’ll be a man in thirty one days. i know the truth, you’ve been a man longer than they’ll ever know. and they say we’re brothers, tommy. but i know the truth, we’re best friends, and i love you.
7.10 one word would be worth one thousand pictures
i wonder how long we’d sit here, darling, waiting for fears to melt away in that thick lazy sunshine. could we fall asleep on the lawn in the purity of this moment and never whisper another word about desires that came and went, or all the dreams that popped quicker than those party balloons.
soak in it, darling. bathe in the clean light of the truth, and forget all about the worry that held us captive. can’t you hear the branches murmur to our eager ears? he comes to make all things new. feel the grass between your toes, watch as even the shadows are made to dance. we are glimpsing in a mirror dimly, but there is form and rhythm in that mirror, and our hearts begin to tug at the memory. don’t be ashamed, we were made for this.
how long must you sit here, until you hear his voice? he is calling to us, and his voice is strong. are you listening, in the overwhelming warmth of every summer sunset, we might catch the song of our lover, the one for whom even the shadows frolic and sway in his symphony.
7.8 there’s a learning to be lessoned
i had been summoned to room 05, band-aid in hand, to patch up one of the little fellows who had managed to cut his finger while practicing martial arts. as i rounded the corner and came into the room, i saw five boys in a neat row, all about half my height, turning and swinging in time with their teacher’s short commands.
the wounded little warrior dutifully stepped forward as i scanned the row, silent but holding out his right hand towards me. i knelt down to inspect the battle scar, only a paper-cut, but still i ripped open the swab to clean his wound. he shivered at the sudden sting of it, wide eyes searching mine, fearfully asking why i would hurt him, yet not saying a word. he pulled his hand away, i reached out and took it again.
“i know it hurts, but i want to clean out your wound. only a few more seconds, promise.”
he grimaced once more and then it was over. i wrapped the band-aid, he shuffled back to his place in line, and i went on my way.
even in the simplest daily stories of paper-cuts and alcohol swabs we may learn a lesson or two. in our lives, growing can be like a swab on our fresh wound. at times it hurts, but there is cleansing even in pain, and it will not last forever. we will make it through in the end.
7.7 i’m not sure where you’re going with this
writing is a building i always burn to the ground the morning after each party. i’d sooner bury it than let it be sold to every passing tourist. i breathe deep at the fluid way we can send waterfalls over the edge to lick the shores of our dry, parched hearts. i like to take long, cool gulps of words though, and i don’t enjoy vomiting up sentences purely for the sake of filling a void. writing is art, and art must say something worth listening to. let me catch your eye without blinding you.
i realize that at times i seem distant, however i truly love listening to your stories. strive to tell stories worth listening to, worth remembering. we only have one shot at this my friend. don’t write a story that’ll put us all to sleep before we’re even laid in our grave for the nap in between. away into the mountains, dirt underneath fingernails, and live a life that makes us belly laugh with tears from the telling of it.
though i’ll never capture you this way, i always yearn for the power behind the musician, as they pull us deeper into the magic. how they swell through our chest with each rise of a spell-laced tune.
at times i must be dragged down to the thankful river to drink, but when i finally arrive how deeply i gulp up gratitude, for the simplest moments. the breeze as it cools branches after a hot summer’s day, the sway of relief those branches return. my shivering chest when the river water envelops me and my jeans even in the hottest part of midday in july. sunset glimpses through the tall grass and strands of her hair, how i always try to capture it in a glass jar and call it a photograph, though i know deeply that the moment needed breath and wind and warmth to live.
i’d sooner burn five dollar bills to keep us warm on the beach than wake up twenty years from now, cold and controlled. we were called to freedom, darling. come, let us steal once more from the universe. we were created to dance, and no robot could frolic as we do in the bravery of a sweaty summer nightfall.
he whispers still to you and me, do not be ashamed of the passion on his lips. an old man told me love is too young to know what conscience is. take my hand, let’s swim out together, i won’t turn back.