First Sight

I want to meet her while standing at a railing, the two of us looking out over a dark blue river, likely abroad, likely one of those old countries where half the roads are still cobbled and every building has stories to tell. We would stand there in silence for a while, me mustering up the strength to say something, her waiting for me to get there, and finally I would say, “Beautiful.” She’d say, “It really is,” but we’d both know I was talking about her.

I want to meet her in a tavern. Not a bar, but one of those worn-in places where folks nip in for a lunchtime pint and you can people watch through window panes stained with age. We would catch eyes from opposite sides of the counter. I would raise my drink in a toast. She would lift hers in return and accompany it with an assured smirk and a small wink. I’d finish my beer and order a fresh one, then walk around, through a room occupied with a handful of regulars but otherwise empty, and we’d talk. For hours. The topics would range from the personal to the inane and the sky outside would slowly darken until the street lights glowed from outside and the evening crowd filtered through the door and we smiled at each other over the lips of our glasses.

I want to meet her in a bookstore. It’s a small affair, privately owned. The shelves are stacked tight with used novels, dog-eared and broken-spined. The pages are yellowed with age and worn with love until a day came when there was no longer room in their home or in their hearts and the paperbacks are given up for adoption. I would walk by her and she’d whirl around and ask my opinion between two books. I’ll have not read either, so we’ll read the backs together and work out a list of pros and cons until a decision is eventually made. “If it sucks, I’ll kick your ass,” she says.  “Take my number so you’ll be able to find me,” I agree.

Or maybe I’ll meet her at a group dinner. It wasn’t supposed to be a double date. Just a group of friends agreeing to meet for a meal and a few of us hadn’t met before, but she and I suddenly hit it off and start having our own conversation off to the side, the rest of the group be damned.

Or maybe we’ll meet on a plane, seated next to each other by chance and conversing because of boredom, and the seeds are sown for what starts as a long distance relationship and possibly blossoms into more.

Or perhaps we won’t meet.

Or perhaps she’s someone I meet again, someone who has been or is in my life. A circumstance changes or a reunion is had, a random meeting in a grocery store that turns into a lunch to catch up.  Maybe I know her already.

Maybe I don’t.

My hope is I’ll meet her, our eyes meet, and I feel that connection again. The kind of current that runs both ways. That kind of tension that raises the hairs on the arm. That flicker downwards as we look at each other’s lips, wondering what that first kiss will be like, taste like. The kind of rapport that leads to a whole lot of nothing that feels like everything and simultaneously lasts a heartbeat and forever.

If she’s out there, I’d like to meet her. It doesn’t really matter how, I suppose.

All I Want to Do

All I want to do is write for her
Is this how poems start?
Is that how poems end?
Time spent wondering where the time went
Pen tap-tapping the table edge
A self-kept metronome keeping a beat of unproductivity
All I want to do is write for her, but
Where are the words?
What is the order?
A thousand tiny birds grab a thousand tiny letters and
Carry them to Valhalla as the souls of the fighting dead
All those cutesy phrases and descriptive phases
Murdered before they could be said
I balk and stutter, quick catchlines turning to tongue clutter
How can anyone send a man’s mind into an explosion of color –
A tie-dyed disaster masterpiece –
While stealing the sentences behind his watchful eyes
Blank weight in a light head
Blank pages waiting for what might be written and
I’m to pluck the proper bounty from an ocean –
Oft traversed yet full of unseen secrets –
To present as an ode or a sonnet
A gift or a prayer or a testament
As a memory that lingers in a loud mind, the recesses of the ear and the edge of the lips
The tip of the tongue
I’m to take a canyon’s echo and translate it to the symphony?
I’m to take the air beneath a dove’s wing and make a gown of it?
I’m to take the universe in a woman’s body and turn that into words?
Into words?
Something. So. Simple. As. Words.
So futile a task hasn’t been known since a miller’s daughter was tasked to
Spin straw into gold, and yet
No matter how I start
No matter how it ends
All I want to do… is write for her

A Beautiful Coin Flip

She had a weakness for writers. Maybe it was the brooding nature, the way that a sitting silence could fill volumes. Maybe it was the self-assured smirk that so often sat below haunted eyes. Maybe it was because she was never so good with words.

Her creativity was one of warmth, one that filled the lungs with flowered fields and the kind of sky with lazy clouds, cornflower and cut through by an occasional feathered journeyer. Her art was one where the heart beat by the sounds of a sonata, one with eyes that could look lovingly at the sun.

She filled finite spaces with frameless things, pieces unbound by logic and thrumming with a life felt far beneath the surfaces; the Marianas Trench of empathy and compassion. Her life, the artist’s life, was one in broad strokes and tight feelings, messy in practice and pure in completion.

There was something about writers, though, she thought as she stared over a mug of hot chocolate, through the whips and whorls of steam stretching free from it, through a window pane polka-dotted with drops of water. Something about the way they could take the ambient light of a rainy day – that light that was somehow both the warm gray of rabbit fur and the faded light blue of acid-washed jeans – and translate it into reflective comfort. The way they captured the pit-patter along the roof while muffled cars splashed past in the street while she sat curled up against the armrest of her couch and the cushion quietly relaxed for her.

She had a gift, but writers had a gift. It was easy for her to lose track of hours in bed, bath or beyond amidst the pages of a novel. It could be fantastic, with fire sprites and warrior women; it could be something futuristic, with strange worlds, clone companions and oceans of crystal; or it could even be something so simple as sudden, sensational love between two people meeting at the right place at the right time.

As she moved from that portal looking out at a drab day to a porcelain basin full of water (hot, to match her chocolate) and lavender scented bubbles, she brought along a dog-eared paperback she could practically quote.

A rainy day. A bath to soak in. A writer’s soul bound within a laminate cover. It  was something she was left to think about and to feel; she was never so good with words, after all.


He had a thing for artists. Maybe it was the unbridled passion, the way each movement made was filled with purpose. Maybe it was the determined line their mouths made, set under eyes filled with lightning and focus. Maybe it was because he was never so good with visuals.

His creativity was one of specifics: a particular metaphor, a precise description, an aesthetic arrangement. It rattled around his mind like a Scrabble bag in a Yahtzee cup, like walking through a sandstorm while trying to picture the oasis. It pounded in his head like a timpani and roiled in his blood, a serpent stepped upon. His art was one that – when it worked – was Pandora’s box of emotion, flooding history and emotion over a barren page, twenty-six symbols tossed together to create an intangible picture, phantom lives, and ghostly worlds.

He filled blank space with puzzle, one in which linear parts formed a whole picture. He bled on paper with memories and anguish and love and what potion brewed from it was something altogether different, echoed by the familiar. His craft was stark honesty, a nude model dressed in the garments of a foreigner. It wept behind bulletproof glass.

There was something about artists, though, he thought as he looked through the glass in his hand, through the swirling amber whiskey that tasted like the dirty hands and knees of his childhood and gifted the deep stars of winter what told him a man’s life is equal parts the least important (to the universe) and the most important (to himself and the human race, a largely selfish and stressed creation but one that exists and feels and loves right there when you think about it) thing to be.

Something about the way they could capture the chips in the edge of his desk to show it has age and character, a piece of furniture with development, one kept from sentiment and usefulness, one built to hold love in its splinters. Something about how they could capture  the bags under his eyes and see every story there in vague detail, every worry line that told five years in the showing, every askew paper that demonstrated the most recent interests as he tore through his notes to find a project that currently spoke to his mind.

He had a gift, but artists had a gift. It was a gift that put a hundred thousand words and stories upon stories into one sight. It spoke of time and love and feelings, good feelings and bad feelings but true feelings. It was something he could  view fleetingly that would haunt him for days. A picture’s worth a thousand words until the one comes that takes them all.

As he moved from that desk, cluttered with things to read and things to do, away from the gun most people called a pen and a page that showed no mercy, he took to bed with him the last beautiful picture he saw. One painted with affection and care, and he pictured the gentle, no, tempestuous, no, dedicated (all of the above) hands that spun gold silk out of air. He went to bed, pillow grasping lightly at the contours of his busy skull, visualizing the artist poised to make a brighter future.

A bursting workshop. A mattress to cradle him. An artist’s soul drifting through the after-image clinging to the frame of the inspired. It was something he was left to think about and to feel; he was never very good with visuals, after all.

A Thing I Thought

I used to fancy myself a poet
Collecting letters and dressing them up
Setting them together in pretty little arrangements
Their dance would tell a story
Of love, of pain, of beauty, of hurt
I thought that’s what poets did

So imagine an imagination thrown
Mind blown
When what walks in but poetry in motion and
Emotion goes haywire
I’m listing and leaning, careening
Parroting motions to signal interest but
I’m not saying she’s for the birds
Though she is full of color and she soars
Though I swore I saw her feet touch the floor
Did she walk? Did she glide?
Did she manifest by my side?
All I know is she WAS and I wasn’t

I shrunk back, pen slacked in the face of
Walking, living, breathing
Posed behind a microphone or the lip of a glass
With lips that could ask the world  of me and
How would I refuse?
Art can’t be denied, only ignored and
There was no averting consciousness
From this, this, this hypnotic ambience
This aura of more
More meaning, more feeling
More beauty
A story that grows in the retelling
As she grows in memory
Filling the corners, patching the cracks
Rattling the beast in the cage so long locked away from
Irrational passion

When she moves, the earth tilts to accommodate her
When she speaks, the flowers bloom
When she sings, the oceans swell
Beating, thrumming like a great heart
When she is, poetry is

I, the poet, am left with dropped jaw and blank pages
The words are in her
The world is in her

Ex Machina

Every now and then I’ll post about a film or a book or something else that catches my attention enough I want to write about it. I did it with Fury, sort of, back when I wrote about my love of ensemble pieces, and now I’m doing the same for Ex Machina, the Alex Garland-directed science fiction film starring Alicia Vikander, Domnhall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actors.

At first glance, it looks like a tightly constructed, lightly cast sci-fi flick that grows into a horror film fraught with suspense. In fact, on the surface, that’s likely exactly what it is. The concept, however, approaches some much more complex ideas, things that are more appropriate now with the growth of artificial intelligence and the movement of non-traditional sexualities.

To take a step back, look at the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice+ about an introvert with a broken heart and inability to handle a traditional romance. He starts a – at first – platonic relationship with a companion A.I. named Samantha. Over the course of the film, Samantha grows as she absorbs knowledge into an intellectual. The information she gleans through her conversations with Theodore (Phoenix) allow her to talk with him like a friend.

Because it begins as a conversation between a man and a program, he confesses things to her that he is unable to get out with other people. He tells her his fears, his aspirations, his irritations, and she responds to them as a friend does. As a person. As Samantha grows, so does her personality. She develops a mentality with opinions and emotions of her own, and though (for the most part) physicality is completely out of the occasion, a romantic relationship develops between them.

It strikes a very curious question in terms of what defines a human. Is it the physical body, or is it a more emotional connection, one that comes from comprehension, critical thinking, and empathy, and if it is this latter thing and artificial empathy is developed, does that mean that an A.I.’s consciousness is on par with one that develops biologically?

There has been a lot of discussion lately among esteemed scientists about the potential dangers and life-changing implications that come from the growth and development of artificial intelligence. It’s something that has been explored in movies like The Terminator (eradication of the human race), A.I., Short Circuit, and more recently Transcendence, and Chappie.

Still, Ex Machina stands out in the same kind of way that Her did. The primary focus seems to be on a small cast of characters (Isaac’s Nathan, Gleeson’s Caleb, and Vikander’s Ava) much like the bulk of Her was Theodore and Samantha.

This allows for a tighter focus, a more personal story, one that explores relationships, the strength and equal fragility of them. It (hopefully) doesn’t lose itself in a sprawling plot of explosive set pieces. It explores what can be considered human sentience.

This interview with the director is an excellent read, and it’s encouraging in that he seems to have an understanding of what science fiction, good science fiction should be doing: asking difficult questions. Hard questions. Questions about things we don’t understand, and that includes what makes us, us. It’s a familiar question (if we lose a leg, or an eye, or our heart and get a cybernetic replacement, at what point do we stop being human? If it’s our personality, or mind that makes us human, and something similar can be replicated perfectly, does that not make them human also?).

Garland is going a step further in bringing sexuality into it. And man, I’m fascinated by sex. As I’ve stated before, I tend to have a pretty liberal view on sex and sexuality, so any time something is explored in pop culture in a way that is new and intriguing, it immediately piques my interest. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I’d never have sex with a robot. But then you take a look at films like Blade Runner with its replicants, the Terminator series, or even the Pretenders from the Transformers series, and it’s hard to say. If they look, sound, act, think, and feel (physically and emotionally) like a human, would you even know if no one told you? Or would a real relationship develop, in the same way that meet communication brought Theodore and Samantha together?

Ex Machina may not explore those themes as deeply as I’d like or would benefit it. It may wind up being a sexual body-horror film in the same way the Species series was, and I can’t say that won’t be entertaining in its own right. But the interview with Alex Garland seems to imply that it’s something he’s at least thought a lot about, and I hope it carries through.

Ex Machina is rated R and hits theaters in the United States this Friday (April 10th, 2015).