Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sequestered in Dreaming (short story/prose poem)

Sequestered in Dreaming


Do you understand how it is to be unsuited to this world? By temperament, not by skill. To see that you are competent, with skills and talents and fingers that fly over typewriter keys and keypads and a brain that quickly calculates percentages or pushes right buttons on the calculator or designs pretty charts and pictures and brochures and they don’t see you hold your head in your hands when no one is around. There is no excuse for an unfit temperament. Can’t cope. Unstable. There are labels, but no excuse.


Beige. Everything is beige. The walls are beige the elevator beige the carpet beige the bathroom. I am beige. I am not a person “of color”. Beige is a color invented by people with no color to make themselves feel colorful. I sit on the toilet, pants and underwear all the way up as if I am at my desk and shake, try to keep my muscles from bursting out of my beige skin and I talk myself back down.

At 3:00 every day it becomes interminably hot in the subatomic basement. Lower level three. I take off my shirt in the beige room within a beige room and lean against the toilet with a silver pipe for my spine. It is cold enough to hurt even though - because - my flesh is so warm. I put my head in my hands and fight the urge to get up and go back to my desk.


Perhaps I am the Japanese soldier of myth. Stranded in the jungle, no one delivered the news that the war was over. That we lost. That my way of life is over. Think of the old people who talk about the old ways and try to hold us back from progress, from we think, liberation. But I sit in beige walls with my hands over my eyes, trying to remember how I ended up here. What arranged marriage brought me to this place and what keeps me from running away and not looking back. What dowry ties me to this chair, to this keyboard. Concubine. Spoils of victory. I march down the hallway hands over my head in surrender, carrying boxes of files and notebooks and pens. Tools that should be mine, taken away from me, used for purposes not my own.


I should get another job. A different job. A better job with more money and “benefits” but the only benefits are the ones that allow you to get up and leave when you want to and ride buses when you want to and be on the way to where you need to be going. I am unwilling in spirit. The flesh knows better. The flesh knows what puts a roof over it, what feeds and clothes it. Flesh follows an automatic path to door to bus to keyed entry into the building. To elevator to cubicle and there it sits.


It’s difficult to be an American and behave yourself. Children in the candy store. Everything’s here and when I feel disgusted I also feel pity. Unsupervised we are unable to say no to toys and gadgets and games. It’s all too easy. We use up most of the world’s resources in a heartbeat without even thinking. Everything so easily gotten, so easily tossed away. Even the most careful intent is thwarted. There is little land to go back to, little memory in our flesh of how to live simply. Everything is disposable. Convenient. Complicated. It’s hard to say no.


From the back of the bus a brown face speaks loudly to everyone and maybe to the person sitting beside him. “You don’t respect me. I know it. Your country. You treat me like a dog. Your country don’t respect me.”

Grandmothers cover young ears beside them and the blonde women in the front exchange a knowing glance. No one dares to look behind them to see the face of the speaker. Goodbye and good riddance the old woman calls after him as she replaces him in his seat.

I think “Amen, Brother” and sneer at the old woman as we both pull our bags closer to ourselves and hunker further into our seats.


Las Vegas is a city built by a gangster in the middle of a desert, not so very far from a huge hole in the ground. By day it is plain and squat and by air almost all of the houses have red roofs. It is the hugest toy store in the world. It tries to convince you you are everywhere at once. Paris. New York. Las Vegas. Heaven. By day it is ugly and beige the color of sand and at night it is all the stars in every universe condensed into multicolored neon and its powers are irresistible by mortal men. Lions live in the casinos and their trainers stroke them into sleep amid an amazing din not found in nature. Ambulance sirens are everywhere and hoards of people parade up and down the strip all night following the sound of bells at Pavlovian feeding intervals. Las Vegas is a golem.


The story of the golem. The Frankenstein. Monster created out of wish, so beautiful in our dreams. Where Zeus dreams of Athena and she is whole and fierce, our mortal dreams turn to monsters. But the golem is built on words and with words can be defeated, talked out of existence. And with the vanity of a writer unfit for this world I wonder if our golems can’t be written out of existence if the Word truly has the power to save anymore. I want to be the antidote.


The spirit is unwilling. The body drags me down the hallways. I am tired. Sleepy. I cry through lunch and there is nothing inside me. I hold my head in my hands as long as possible, hope that no one notices me, thinks I am sick and turns away from me. I want to turn beige and blend in. I want to disappear and go unnoticed about my own life. Unfit as I am.

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