LJ Idol Season 10: Week 9

Trolley Problem

A sonata rising from the coiling recesses of the metro slides in rapids across the porcelainized burrows, wafting feebly amidst the dust of the calescent doldrums, dappling the errants’ eardrums, napes, and temples alike.

The throng at the platform of Saint-Lazare bobbles in the pyretic thrall of August’s crimson mane—its fiery bristles penetrating the crust, seeping into the gnarled intestines of the city—their gazes, gestures, and trajectories stunted, caught in a cross-section of no vehicles, a swath of non-departures.

Two women make eye contact.

The first: a whisper of sinews sliding along bones, standing in a queer pocket such that a trick of suction pulls a pale dress to and fro across stolid, jagged shoulders and knees, her eyes fixed placidly upon the woman approaching her, her lips parted in an unending exhalation.

The second: a jolt of fibrous muscles bounding to action, caged in an odd bubble such that a cruelty of chance pulls tired biceps and hamstrings into a dire pose, her eyes fixed madly upon the woman before her, her lips parted in an unresolved inhalation.

So you are the one I knew I would meet some day.

The conductor pulls on the brake with all of her force, but it is of no avail. The women share a burgeoning moment, and then the first is no more.

An hour later, upon questioning by the police, the conductor puffs through parted lips, “whether it’s for a tree, a cable, a dog, or a man, it’s the same procedure. I did all that could have been done.” She is hunched upon a bench on the platform, her uniform stuck to the hulking curve of her spine, elbows digging into shot kneecaps, fingers clawing a scalp through a soaked crimson mane.

It is estimated that 450 people commit suicide annually in France by putting themselves in front of oncoming trains. New conductors expect that they will one day be the unwitting cause of another's death. Veteran conductors have moment by moment accounts of their first, second, third encounters with these suicides.

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 8

Topic: No comment

Savoir (comment) faire

It was un bon geste, in any case. So well did I embody the role of le pauvre américain that my dutiful gardiens français were compelled to whisk me away to this particular pièce de théâtre immersif culturel. The news flowed smoothly off of wine-daubed tongues, languid langues cooing after hours of pampered endurance : the apéritif, the plat principal, the dessert, the hours of quipping and sipping in between.

« Bon, Bra-yan ! said Marion. What will you do with your evening tomorrow ?
—Oh, I don’t think I have anything going on. I respond.
—Parfait. I thought we could all go to the meat roast.
—The what?
—It is a special thing in a neighborhood not far. Paul interjects.
—It will be very pleasant for us. And for you.
—I see.
—And there will be young people, too ! »

The déclaration wrinkled the air with mirth and pity. Such a prominent pairing here. C’est le pain quotidien.

And there we were. This particular fruition of local color and French identity was an annual meat roast in honor of the strapping beaux gosses of the neighborhood’s club de football. And honored they were. Pods of garçons virils conjoined and collapsed throughout the dining hall, their voices and gestures bounding with fraternité compétitive as their family members looked on in worship from the perimeter, piercing the boy’s rallying cries with songs of victory and conquest.

And there was I. Le pauvre américain. L’étranger. La curiosité. As the athlètes bounded around the hall, I was bound to the dinner table with Marion et Paul. They had been waiting all evening for me to make a move : breach one of the pods, charm them with my exotic otherness, but then assimilate. Be happy. They, bien sûr, began to see their faux pas. In no respect would I be able to impose my presence on any of these people. Not in this context. Dans aucun contexte. I have never been the face of the manifest destiny of American culture as a good to be exported. I can not inject myself into a foreign place and demand recognition and acceptance. Manon et Paul keep the light, tight-lipped conversation at the table alive, so as not to concede to the failure of their plans and of my integration. Their faces are taught with the effort of le paraître.

A name comes to mind for the Possible-Legal-Name-Change list. I have always disliked my own, and here, it exacerbates my otherness. Félix. A Félix would integrate here--would have no issue navigating droves of disinterested strangers. A Félix, by definition, must be happy. The name bounds around my skull for a while.

A DJ starts to play.
The pods of beaux gosses
Speckle the hall,
But hardly hallow it
As a dance floor.

I can not
Impose myself onto them,
Can never
Assimilate into them,
But sure as hell
Will I assert
Just how Other
I am
Just how
Just how
My muscles
Weren’t bred
For sport
But how
My bones
Were bred
To rip the spaces
Between the beats
Along the ley lines
Of the air exhaling
Chacun de mes os
Un oiseau
Qui vole
Sans méprise
Jusqu’au bout
De l’âme

The pretty boys, flummoxed and guffawing, deride the lone American weirdo who is dancing with the intention to dance. Some parrot the movements, others let flow a joke in streams of indecipherable French. The parrots, however, begin to realize how gratifying it is to move not for purpose, but for expression. The pretty boys begin to dance in earnest. They bound and swarm among themselves, their dance a bit of a scrimmage. I leave them to their task, rejoining Marion et Paul.

« Wow, look at you go! cries Marion.
—Haha, merci. Je sais comment danser! I say.
—Tu sais danser. Paul corrects with a mirthful wink.
—Ouais, c’est ça. Je sais danser. »

Marion, Paul et moi pass the rest of the night in high spirits, both emotional and alcoholic. They are more à l’aise for some reason. Less paraître, more être. Perhaps they are secretly happy that I prefer their company to those I am expected to befriend. We find a spot to drunkenly dance, just the three of us. On est vachement bourrés! We roll out of the hall and along cobbled roads through crooked corridors of le quartier, slurring Sinatra’s New York just a bit too loudly and avec un peu trop de bonheur.

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 7

Topic: Where I'm From

I am from nowhere.
I am from no where.

I am from that womb
Against which I never fought
Whose walls I stretched
Neither by fist nor foot

I am from that first thought
Gauzy yet tenacious
Abreast the zephyrs
No land
Just a queer movement of moments
Malaise at the bottom of the drain
—Is it over?
—Is it over?
—Is it over?

I am from that first crisis
The dawn of first grade
50 pounds
Sad eyes looking plainly in a mirror
—Why was I born me?
The dawn of first truth
—I will never be happy.


I am from that absence
Of my father
His language
His culture
The legacy of voyagers
Uprooted at my feet
Their song
Trilling vowel to consonant
To vowel to consonant to vowel
Rotting in my mouth

I am from those deaths
In the water
My sister the savior
My sister the slayer
My sister the sine wave

I am from that sense
Of self
A rogue idea
Cast into bone
Flung into flesh
A certainty of nothing
Save self
A refusal to die
Despite the desire
A meager vessel
Seething with purpose
With no vision of it
Cleaving the orbits of ions
In a lyric spasm
That juts past the fulcrum
Of the vertebrae
Of the crust

I am from that fall

I from that lack of verbs
I that lack prepositions
That lack a subject
Lack syntax that

I am from nowhere.
I am from no where.
I am from now here.

From where am I?
I am from where
From where I am
Where I am from.

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 4

Topic: "I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be."

Teach a Man to Fish

Drop your hands down by your side
As you join the riverside
Drop your hands down with your pride

Drop drop drop drop drop

Drop your hands into the flow
Drop your weight and drop your woe
Drop the things you think you know

Drop drop drop drop drop

It’s not about the things that you chase just in front of you
Grasp at the water: nothing’s there
Forget of what you were, what you are, what’s to become of you
Dance as the water with the air

And you will have moved to where you need to be
To find the thing you ought to seek
To grasp the unseizable

Perhaps you let the dream chase you

And one day, like it or not
We’re the ones who will be caught
Show respect to what you’ve sought

And drop drop drop drop drop

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 3

Topic: Brushback Pitch

Temper your temper
Rants and tantrums:
Your fiery anthem

You know it ain’t
So handsome to ransom
Your affection for my abjection

a brushback pitch

I can make out a fake-out
In the distance
Firing your pistons

You vilify
And I will if I
Will it to be;
To wit, to me
You lead with a

brushback pitch

Every now and then
I can pretend
It will end
In our mending
Despite the evidence

Time and time again
My deference
Is your sole preference
Just as a reference

I will not halt
I will not fold
I will not cede a single step more

So miss me with your best shot
Why don’t you miss me with your best shot
Miss me with your best shot
Fire away!

Throw it to me baby
Throw it on me baby
Bring it on home
Bring it all home

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 2

Topic: That One Friend

Kismet soul,
I’ve never had you long enough.

Many the years
where I cursed your guise
while stitching your shadow
into my mythos.

Kindred light,
I had not yet learned
to feel your trace
in the humble passersby
that glancingly broke my stride
by matching my gait—

as when you were
the hibernal maiden,
beauty and strength
flashing in stolid gestures
gripping truths,

as when you were
the island daughter,
precision and poise
undulating through the current,
breaking, crestfallen, tidal,

as when you were
the haloed boy,
mirth and mischief
slaking my thirst
for the warmth of the sun,

as when you were
the stricken one,
neurosis and reflection
shattering happily
alongside me—

forgive my pride;
I had not yet learned to see you.

Kinfolk wind,
for too long
have you molded
to my needs
without reciprocity.
I too
shall bend beyond this frame
shall dance between the bones
shall fly beside your hearts
humming the tune
you never knew you’d need.

Kindling love,
I too
can be stitched
to mend your holes.

LJ Idol Season 10: Week 1

Topic: I need the struggle to feel alive

Gin & Tonic

The first beer,
acerbic as acknowledgment,
flowed from a French tap
through the palms of British inspiration
and onto my virginal American tongue:
the first lurid release.

The first wine,
floral and fetid as fantasies,
was born on the back
of the first whiskey:
acute acupuncture in the apéritif—
French eyes sizing up an American adult,
their Gaulish tongues addressing a francophone child

The first gin & tonic,
ginchy and atonal,
is shared among Floridians
fondling each other for warmth
under a siege of soviet snowfall—
he is pierced
and she is punctured
and I am that which I am not
(Я ни знаю,
j’en sais rien),
but here,
in a nest of paintings of people watchings,
we watch each other
with blurred eyes
and turning lips
and gushing lungs
as we slay the winter
with vows over vodka.

Week 19


My family
are the swallowers
and the swallowed:
we were once
writhing, wrinkled, wretched,
expelled from women’s lips
and devoured by those of men—
exhumed from women’s canals
and entombed by those of men,
or if not,
we were those women
and we were those men
sharing those brittle pieces of ourselves
from orifice to orifice to orphans to orators.

O, how clarion our cries of joy
when my almighty father
slew his almighty father,
cutting a womb
where there once was none
from the engorged gut
of my grandfather,
the first swallower,
the serial cannibal,
rebirthing my uncles and aunts.

O, how clutching the joy
of being swallowed no longer.

If only we weren’t cyclical.
If only we weren’t sick.

For here am I,
swathed in my mother’s womb
swathed in my father’s gut;
he ate us whole
because the thought of me
was awful to him.
The genetics were too strong
for my almighty father;
We are the swallowers
And the swallowed.

I will follow our cycle, too,
but none will have seen
the likes of me.
I too will carve a womb
where once there was none
from the walls
of my almighty, impotent father.
I will show him
just how awful
the thought of me is
as I cleave his head in twain,
my power swathed
not in the likeness
of his sick symbol
of his despicable breastplate
but in my own
halcyon aegis.

O, how clarion my cry of joy.

Week 18

Witness / Sagayan

Her legs noiselessly fall into lotus upon the bare linen sheets, her weight forming valleys and gorges running all along the soft lunar face of the bed towards the unyielding focal point of her gravitas. Supple fingers hover and twinge over myriad tableaux that she has spread about her, bisecting the valleys and gorges, now one might call train tracks from one metro station of memories to another, or perhaps roots pulling nutrients into her trunk. She hails each photograph with her touch, her breath hitching as she pushes the ridges of her fingertips into a glossy sweater, or a pair of sunglasses, or a cheek. She is beauty at the center of a kaleidoscope, bending and refracting herself through hidden filters, endlessly manufacturing the most appealing renditions of mundane, purposeless artifacts.

"Brian. Look at these."

And I do. Gingerly, I sit one leg along the side of the bed so as not to unsettle the memory quilt she crafted herself into. I always had a talent for not displacing her.

"Look at how we were."

And I do. I see a little girl in a nylon windbreaker, her joy as wild as the black wires exploding from her scrunchie. Often, she is in the arms of our father, his face and body springing towards her with the elasticity of rigorous, kinetic love.

I know what I will see when I see myself, but I look anyway. I see it right away, even behind the eyes of this little boy who hardly looks old enough to walk: a hulking emptiness--a resignation to the void. In the photos, our father's face and body recoil from the darkness. He is ashamed to have spawned such a thing.

I put it to her simply. "I'm not happy in any of these."

"I know...but...you're such a wonderful, beautiful person, and this is a part of you, so these are precious to me."

"...come here. Let's practice for tomorrow."

"Oh, okay! Let me put on my dance shoes."

I bring her to me, and in our dance of duality, I ground her.

Tomorrow, at our cousin's wedding, I will dance on my own, a righteous healing dance that will astound my father's family. I will not be a kaleidoscope. I will not be filtered. I will be the wind meeting the ground, articulations gyrating around a darkness that illuminates the cosmos.