In the beginning there was void. The void was endlessly dense and dark, blotting out every potential. In void, without cause, the primordial being found itself. It was the light. It knew its occurrence in void was a miracle and it was joyful in the knowledge of its being. That joy resounded with a terrible longing to be shared, and exploded into myriad aspects of individuation, each free, like the primordial being, to explore its own discovery of self awareness. Free to explore their will, they turned their attention towards the void, and knew by degrees the echo of infinite dread that all sentience feels in its presence.
I’m primarily interested in the Tao. That's the best word for it. I’ve seen it once, though it can’t really be seen. You can’t approach it with your mind. The Tao is the manifest and the unmanifest from which all things come and into which all things pass, and of which – all things are comprised at all moments. God is the reflection of that in the mind. The mind will only ever know itself, and it sees itself in all things. The highest thing the mind can know is God, who embodies the highest qualities of man. These are the qualities of the Tao, reflected in the mind.
People who are uncomfortable with the idea of God can sometimes accept the idea of an encompassing order, as it leaves them alone to deal with their problems, which may be consistent with their experience of life. I believe that we’re left to our own devices, but that we aren’t alone. Whether you call it the Tao or God, there is an aspect of ourselves that knows much more about us than we admit to ourselves.
I was once a rational empiricist. I still am. Only I’ve experienced things that seem fantastic. Those experiences were helpful to me. They changed me in ways that made my life better.
A Show of Arms
They tore the jetty from the pier.
A show of arms.
Luminescent flagella beat brackish riptides.
The figure eight lifted from the crosscurrents,
streams across the cornice,
runs furrows into stone,
around twin orbs,
distended with an outsized bite of heavy air,
gasped into cool night,
to settle as artifact on concrete curb,
gone by morning’s light.
I’ve lived my entire life in cold weather cities. I was born and raised in Chicago and have lived my adult life in New York. I associate cities with the color grey. I’m tired of the city. I think about moving with my wife and our five year old son outside of the city, but I don’t feel comfortable there. My wife’s family has a summer home in Michigan. Walking on the road near her family’s house, men in pickup trucks have driven at me, running me off the road’s shoulder.
When moving around the city, I’m alert to the possibility of violence. Men who look like me, look me in the eye in a hard way. I used to get in fights. I was almost killed in a fight with three men. As they encircled me, I stepped backwards and lost my footing on a rain slick curb and fell to the ground. One of the men crouched over me with a knife, stabbed at me, and used the weight of his body to try to drive the blade through my chest. Using my pinky as a fulcrum, I grabbed the blade by the hilt and took the knife. With the knife in my hand, he froze as I sprang to my feet and drove him and the others back as they tried to reencircle me.
I haven’t been in a fight in over a decade. I want to get home safely to my family, but I still see things that anger me to near violence: a man threatening to choke an elderly chinese woman, an unmasked man berating a woman who moved away from him on the subway. I pull myself back from the threshold. Nothing good can come from a violent confrontation, and lots of tragic things can.
My studio looks onto a corrugated steel wall, streaked with grey dust from the neighboring waste transfer station where the city’s construction debris is ground into particulate. Above that, the windows frame a solid block of sky. In the studio I move through different states as I work: malaise, sorrow, anger, elation. I’ve don’t elaborate too much on any of them. I watch them pass as they pass through me, as my body and hands stay busy. In its entirety, there’s a great pleasure in that. The pinky on my right hand, which saved me from the blade, is immobilized. I don’t notice it anymore.
Its late afternoon on a Friday and I’m driving from Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. Adam is in the car seat behind me. Orange light falls slantwise across the East River onto the faceted topography of the lower Manhattan skyline. This weekend, I’ll walk with my family and run into friends on the streets below the newly constructed, glass-clad residential skyscrapers. We’ll sit for a meal as I commit to another season in the city, or as many as it takes.
First published in Flash Art, December 2021
A diaphragmatic constriction
renders in shades of stasis and flux
respirates across twin haunches.
Dilating blades constrict
mending the aperture
the opening in a clenched fist
around worm tunnel
rending it out of existence.
The horse is still running.
to snap the whip
you aim behind it.
In the direction of travel
It resounds like backlash.