Void and Nil

Evie laughed to herself. It was just acting. Then again, she often did have trouble determining where she ended and someone else began. She wasn’t sure if this was a side-effect to acting, or to existing. Or if there was even a difference between the two.
When she searched herself, what she found was: she didn’t really care where she ended and someone else began, or vice-versa. She relished her loss of awareness when slipping into other personas. And whatever persona adopted, there wasn’t any genuine attachment, because she would be operating from a place of void. One was the same as the other as the other. None of them were her. And she wasn’t her. The void signed off on everything. In invisible ink.
With nesting doll instincts she dreamed she was someone else, and that someone dreamed they were someone else, and that someone didn’t dream at all. That someone was the last straw, the dreamless one, the tenant of emptiness.
You never come up against void. That never happens. You come up against your resistance to void, that’s what stops you, freezes you in your tracks. Void is something you pass right through. No doors, no barriers, no parameters, no anything. You glide right through on pixelated skates, and then realize, in ways that are both terrifying and liberating, the endlessness to emptiness. A form of self-mutiny occurs, and everyone you thought you were is thrown overboard and there are no life preservers. That is when you feel the ghost that you always were and always had been, that is when you become haunted by the tenuous proximity to your own ghost-life.
Evie knew from a relatively young age that others could sense the void in her, and they swarmed like frenzied moths to its glaring white absence. People were magnetically drawn to Evie’s void, because it was easy to project into. There was nothing there. They could simultaneously confront and evade, look into and turn away from their own voids, by allowing themselves to pool inside of Evie’s secret two-way mirror.

(Image by Heather Ross)

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In Dreams Begin First Person

I am running.
It feels like I’ve been running for a long time.
I want to turn around and look behind me but my neck is locked into place.
So I can’t see who or what is chasing me, but I know it’s a werewolf.
I want to know what kind of werewolf it is.
It feels very important to know its shape and size, whether it’s running on two legs or four.

Now I am in the trees.
Or it’s another me, a different me, one that is like a presence, or wind.
This me moves through the trees and watches the running me who is still being chased by the werewolf, which looks like a dark four-legged mass. Like an inkblot with legs.
The werewolf is nipping at the heels of running me and I watch as running me is finally able to move her neck and turn around to see what’s chasing her and that’s when her head falls off.

The head, detached, may start a life all its own. A job, kids, all of it.

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Autumn Colored Souls

Does Bevel know that the color of Lucy’s soul is autumn?

As Lucy danced, I could see her branches sprouting in different directions, while yellow leaves flew everywhere, like star-pointed birds.

You want to kiss me really, really bad, don’t you?
I stared into Lucy’s lacquered eyes, then tracked to her crescent-shaped scar and hung there, waiting for my words to catch up to me.
I’ve had a lot of blues and greens tonight, I said, and conscientiously ran my fingers through my hair, as if that were something a person who had drunk a lot of blues and greens might do.
Then I opened my eyes, not realizing they had been closed, and saw that I was in a corner, near the restroom, sucking my thumb, and Lucy was nowhere in the vicinity. I unplugged my thumb from my mouth, and stepped forward, scanning the club.
There she was. Dancing with Bevel to the Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.” Lucy was wearing a paisley cotton dress, which clung to the upper half of her body and flared at the hem. Her tennis shoes were impossibly white.

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The Abyss and You

Excerpt from The Last Furies:

When Evie disappeared, I wondered about all sorts of things, including my own sense of reality. I wondered about the photos of Evie I had burned, and the five that remained, and what their place in my life had become, or would become.
We are made up so much more of what we are not than of what we are. This was one of Evie’s refrains, one which she didn’t speak glumly or tragically or even with a sense of wonder, but rather as a neutral stating of physics, of dreams and psychic bundles. And while Evie’s disappearance did leave a deep emotional imprint on me, a scarring one, it also felt like a test. As if reality, as a strident quizmaster, had issued the challenge—Evie? Evie, who, exactly?

Astronomers theorized that, based on its chemical make-up, the dust from the nebula that gave birth to our sun would taste like raspberries. And the closer you get to a black hole, the slower time runs.
So, I reason, following someone down a rabbit hole can also double as following them into a black hole, where the closer you get to its mysterious center, the slower time runs, and eventually you reach the point of no return, the event horizon, and you watch yourself freeze into a phantom imprint, the X-ray of a void, and this dissolved incarnation of you continues plunging into the dark wonder, the atomizing tantalus of the abyss.

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Wendigo Talespin

My sixth novel, No One Dreams in Color, started as a story, titled Wendigo. Which then became a film script. Which eventually turned into a novel revolving around a man, Paul Kirby, who had written a story which he had turned into a script that was then made into a nine-minute film, Wendigo, whose blue mood conjured the spirit of lonely places. Paul Kirby mysteriously disppears in the high desert town of Nine Peaks. And from there, a tale of metaphysical noir begins its rabbit hole plunge and boogie. Here is a small dose of No One Dreams in Color:

We were sitting at a café in the Mission called Havana, which had a Cuban theme. Framed photos of Cuban street life and culture adorned the café’s pale orange walls. A Cuban flag was pinned horizontally to the wall behind the counter. A stack of cigar magazines were laid out on a metal coffee table in the center of the café. One of the magazines had a cover photo of a snow-bearded Hemingway, with a thick cigar plugged into his mouth.
Lucy said that Havana was one of her favorite haunts. I found it oddly touching that she had used the word haunt.
Outside, a cold rain was falling, which made me feel like a real detective. Or rather, like a real detective from the movies.
Here I was, in a café, on a rainy day, sitting across from a woman who didn’t match her name, and was the old flame of a man who had disappeared, a man whose ghost I was stalking. It was a movie I had seen before, wrapped within dozens of other movies. Except I was in it, though there was no one watching me from the cushy perspective of passive audience. Or was there?
I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching. Always watching. No wonder Santa Claus was such a polarizing figure.

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Sound and the Furies

My novel, The Last Furies, was partly inspired by the life, legend and poetic reckoning of the Symbolist brat-prince, Arthur Rimbaud. As a hybrid work, that is both an endless remix of a novel and a sorcerer’s cryptic handbook, the Furies at its molten core is a call to radical alchemy, to the transformative power of language, myth and story. It is about deep dreaming and even deeper rememberance. And it wears the mantra of John Coltrane on the torn sleeve of its heart: “You’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new way.” Here’s a small dose from Furies:

The play opens with a bang, followed by a whimper.
The bang, that of a pot crashing to the floor.
It was his mother, rheumatic, bleary eyes, an aproned trapezoid, who had burned her hand on the pot handle and cursed filthily in peasant-French, as the pot hit the kitchen floor, BANG, and the sauce splatted like fairytale blood.
Then came the whimper, escaping through the boy’s nostrils like a small wound announcing itself musically.
The boy, fair-haired, blade-boned, waifish, attempting to absorb and comprehend the architecture that is his mother, wagging her singed beefy hand ridged with sawtooth knuckles, his mother continuing to run coarse French profanities up a flagpole, his mother.
The boy, turning to the audience: I see her standing there and everything about her seems inappropriate, foreign, undesirable. What am I doing there in the kitchen? How did I fit in? My mother struck me as an ugly ominous preview of a culture that I rejected and despised on intuitive forecast alone. I knew before I knew. I had been born into a culture of organ-harvesters and eunuch-makers. I had sniffed out the war-mongering and indoctrination from the tender side of the womb. The chairs, the rolling pin, the forks and knives, the dropped pot, all of these belonged there, but me . . . It was like waking up in someone else’s dream, not just once, but always, a dream with scene changes so as to give the impression that things were moving, cycling, different, but really…

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Sea Change

Excerpt from my novel, No One Dreams in Color.

1.

   I was nineteen and lost when I first saw Wendigo. That was the year everything broke apart. In the center, and in other places too.

   My mother died, by her own hand. My girlfriend and I split up. Looking back, it’s hard to remember what came first, my mother’s death or the break-up.

   Everything in my nineteenth year melded into a continuous blur. Where I felt both tormented by time and seeming to exist outside of it.

2.

   The comforting darkness of movie theaters. Movie theaters had been my haven and sanctuary, my church, since childhood, and never more so than in my nineteenth year.

   How to Exist Inside Cinema Outside Your Own Life.

   That was the title of something I had written when I was seventeen. Or if I hadn’t written it, I had written the title that was still waiting for the story to which it could attach itself.

3.

   One night I had gone to a shorts film festival at the Film Forum, a theater on Houston Street, and that was where I first encountered Wendigo.

   It was a nine-minute film, with no dialogue, set in a snowy tundra. It was shot in 16 mm, with a spectral bluish tint. What I witnessed on screen directly corresponded to my wounds. It felt as if I had mainlined Wendigo, and I left the theater that night in a daze. But a different kind of daze from the one that had rendered me a full-time sleepwalker. This daze brought on a wooziness that became a gateway to feeling. To a resonance that wouldn’t stop echoing.

4.

   Tan-colored pill bottles, and the pills—small, white, chalky. Razors that could be concealed like wafers under the tongue. The moldy, corroded edge of a porcelain bathtub. Brown shag carpet. A vacuum cleaner with a balloon for guts. Lipstick-smudged menthol cigarettes cluttered in a glass ashtray. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Days registering a metronome. A cobra-backed wicker chair set near the window in the living room. Where she’d sit. A discolored wedding ring stashed in a small red box. Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

   My mother’s name was Angela.

5.

   The following day, at a matinee, I saw Wendigo again. There were other films in the program, but I was deaf and blind to them.

   When Wendigo finished, and the closing cello music was playing, I realized that I was crying. It felt as if they were someone else’s tears. Or that I was crying them for someone else. Someone who had gone away, someone whose name I couldn’t remember.

6.

   Paul Kirby. That was the man who had written, directed and acted in Wendigo. I had eagerly awaited Kirby’s next film, never imagining it wouldn’t come. Wendigo won awards, and had become a cult darling among cinephiles. Yet Kirby never made another film. To my knowledge, his entire cinematic legacy comprised a single, nine-minute film.

7.

   My first girlfriend’s name was Jenny. We used to go to the movies together a lot. We also liked to fool around in the movie theater, especially when the audience was sparse. The first blowjob I had ever received was from Jenny, in the movie theater, while we were watching Police Academy.

   I heard that she married a fireman and now lived on Long Island.

8.

   Wendigo had tattooed itself on my heart. It belonged to a part of my life when I had been submerged, and it, like a small dependable light, had kept me company.

   These are the things I’m thinking, the things I’m feeling, after having chanced upon the article about Paul Kirby’s disappearance.

   The article reports how Kirby had gone missing in Nine Peaks, the town in New Mexico where he lived, and investigations were ongoing.

    There was a smattering of details. Kirby’s age, thirty-five, the fact that he was originally from Brooklyn, and how his short film, Wendigo, had been filmed in the mountains of Nine Peaks. There was also a black and white photo of Kirby standing in front of a fence. 

9.

   I allowed everything to seep in, and settle. Not just the news of Kirby’s disappearance, but the timing of it in relation to my own life and present circumstances.

   While my recently turned-ex-girlfriend was at work, I was picking up some of my stuff at her apartment. Realizing that this was probably the last time I would be in her apartment, I decided to linger and savor the details that had given tone, depth and texture to the past three years of my life.

   I poured myself a glass of pulp-free orange juice. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich on wheat bread, and then added spicy brown mustard. I sat down at the table, where the newspaper was laid out, as if waiting for me.

   While eating, I casually flipped through the pages, and there it was, in bold letters: Man Vanishes Without a Trace.

   I stared at the photo. Kirby had dark wavy hair, and his hands were thrust into his pockets. He looked both casual and serious. I couldn’t tell if his face were covered in five o’ clock shadow, or if it were the poor quality of the photograph creating the effect.

10.

   After finishing my sandwich and glass of orange juice, I poured myself a second glass of orange juice, and considered what Marianne had said about us having drifted apart.

   There’s no center to any of this, she had spoken with a calm clarity that had frightened me. It was like the words, and the voice behind those words had come from somewhere else.

11.

   I am standing on a huge glacier, adrift in the sea, and I am pitching an idea for a show to a network executive, who is not there on the glacier with me, but is rather a projection, or some sort of hologram who can hear me.

   I tell him the show will be called Jukebox, An American Pop Odyssey, but can’t remember what I say when explaining the details of the show. I do remember that the network executive seemed intrigued by my pitch.

   When I told Marianne about this dream, she looked at me funny and said nothing.

   What, I pressed.

   I dreamed about glaciers last night too, she said.

   Are you serious?

   Yes.

   What happened in your dream?

   All I remember is that there were a lot of huge glaciers, and they were making a low rumbling sound, like thunder. And I was spellbound.

12.

   I wanted to feel worse about mine and Marianne’s break-up, but I mostly felt relieved. As if I had been pardoned from something. Perhaps Marianne felt the same?

13.

   With Wendigo having returned to my life via the disappearance of Paul Kirby, I got hit with waves that were part of a sea change. Its influence would move me in a different and unexpected direction, but not for several months. Not until autumn.  

Image by Josef Sudek
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Cinema Scope

A catalog of my film scripts, and accompanying loglines, listed on Stage 32.

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Nipples don’t Kill

In the feral country of nipples,
where she-wolves raise
their pups to howl unashamedly
at the moon,
many many men,
unconsciously ensnared
in puritanical roots,
fear, scorn and revile
the mystery of the female nipple,
its organic promise of milk and eternity
too vagrantly radiant
for many many men’s eyes to bear,
hence the blotting, fuzzing
and other control-tested methods
used to impair the nipple
and render it a pariah and taboo,
yet through it all,
nature runs its inviolable course,
with the rose assuring the areola:
A nipple is a nipple is a nipple—
and that’s the gospel truth
from the limitless mouth
of God herself.

This pair of breasts inked by Anais Rumsfelt, which I received as part of her delightful V-Day tradition, when she graciously dispenses breasts of all styles and sizes via the World Cup (Taos, NM) in celebrating the sacredness of the female human body.

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The Source

For mothers everywhere:

Their hearts, registered
as infinite beacons,
have gone gently
and luminously into nights
not so good and pitch-black, braving
flytrap folds and god-awful rows
to soothe, mend and
restore the bruised vitals
of daughters and sons;
they go, infused with bright rage,
green force driving home
nocturnes and hymns–I will sing for you,
child, in your gravest moments of fear,
when mirrors forcecast darkly,
follow my notes, gonged and trilled,
lisped and cracking, a gospel rush
of crumbs guiding you, measure by measure,
into the milkdeep arms of safe harbor.
When lost, we set our compass
to Mother, the truest needle forever pointing North,
a fixed constellation
wedding orphans
to an infinite charge,
how light travels
at the incalculable speed
of love.

Image by Gustav Klimt

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