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“The Enemy Has Left the Building”

Driving back through Indiana

At the end of February, 2024

I notice a vast, exhaustive expanse

Of aridness, an eerie,

Brown cloak of desolation

Befallen our planet on

Which we

.

Have taken to monitoring

Everything with video

Surveillance, have

Advertised marijuana

In states where it is illegal and have

Sped to the end of the

Movie

.

To see

The naked body,

Now dead, with

He** not a crashing,

Thunderous storm but an

.

Eternity of a withered abyss

Tailoring staring at oneself and

Confusing oneself with something.

“Carmel, Ind.”

We all got the programs

When we were in our seats,

Glossed them,

The faceless corporate nothingness,

The ladies who don’t mean anything

With fake tans and the

Spatial abyss between

Noblesville and the city and

It was another underdog night

When I set out darker than black

For a cheap good time

And found you writhing

Like a new breed of dog,

When I was intimidated to make eye contact

With the high schooler working the seafood counter at Kroger

With an unbuttoned jacket exposing a Misfits shirt,

When I knew to be nice to the autistic grocery bagger

Because I just knew the world needed more of that

And I knew it was my purpose

And I laughed at finding my purpose in Carmel

And I swear I saw my dry spell obliterated in Muldoon’s

Until I looked at the lady’s epidermal ease

Like a little girl, seeing

What they need from us

In this suburban town where

I knew what I was trying to do

But didn’t know what I’d find.

“Untitled 365”

It comes again and it’s crazy, like a universe-spanning landscape of pastoral light. I’m surprised that it doesn’t feel like the Narcissistic days of college — the tendrils of awkward, sarcastic puns, of that Supergrass CD, of ideals and a start and an end. I think about younger people. The world is on fire in a bath of love and I feel like a ridiculous experiment, soon fatalized, now just basking in the glow of this test run on this planet that oozed out more euphoria, more endorphins and more magic than was billed on the event program.

“The Little Wife on Riverside Dr.”

She stands ardently on the porch

Administering to two men,

A husband and

A worker.

.

Her arms are folded and she is

Stationary within her domain.

.

She smiles and nods,

Of slender jawline,

Neck, waist,

And low height.

.

I pass by her and her

Eyes seem to absorb me

Within an orb of

Warmth and moisture.

.

She is looking,

Relating to

These two men

And she is

Crying out

.

Into the night, she is

Shrieking at the human

Condition

On the inside

With

.

Fiery red blood and

All the while

Keeping a comportment calm

On her porch,

Her domain,

On which

.

Her feet are like cinder blocks and

Her eyes are like home.

“A Quiet Day”

A drone sidled its way down from the cumulus assemblages with curious casualness, one day, after the apocalypse. The people had all fled for the seas, which were salty and piping hot. The enterprise was completely still.

The drone made its way to one of the old stockyards. It couldn’t feel it but the ghosts of the animals flooded the landscape, making deafening, silent noise with their stead and forming the only song anybody could sing, or hear, had they the ability to be present.

The drone ambled its way to one of the manufacturing facilities, in which still stood nine-foot-high boxes that had contained flesh, bones and hair. Other boxes had contained documents — mostly records of transactions. They were all records of transactions. In the last days, that had been the only possible human initiative. The documents piled up. They were white, black, blank and angry. And the silhouette of the last human seemed to linger in the air — a loud, panicked man prone to meanness and senseless outbursts, saddled with this obligation that had been life on planet Earth.

The drone mitigated its way into one of the chemical laboratories. Everything was clean. It was defiantly, antipathetically clean, like a domicile for killing germs, killing livestock and killing anything else that should have entered, which, eventually, of course, had succeeded. With blank, purposefully ignorant faces, men had created concoctions. They had worshipped the enterprise of production, out of obligation, their alarm clocks whipping them in the morning like livestock into routine misery, with the fear of failure spurring them as they sipped their instant coffee.

Around the year 3442, or so, organized sound waves had attempted to penetrate the enterprise. All about the premises, a multitude of dins could be audible like saws cutting into bone, giant machines mixing chemicals of hormones and preservative solutions, giant trucks with air brakes stopping and starting, and men yelling. The women would typically stand, squat, rotund, completely silent, in uniform, faceless, overseeing the proceedings with an adopted, ambitious involvement in them.

When organized sound waves attempted to infiltrate the enterprise, everyone entered a panic. One man began bleeding from the ears. Others fell down, screaming in misery, clutching livers, pancreases, ventricles, muscles. Eventually the superintendent was called in, who released a systematic, measured peal of nerve gas throughout the entire campus. There were a couple of fatalities. A state of emergency was declared and the White House sent a platoon of EMS. Cots were placed throughout the territory. Some men were sleeping next to animals. The animals accepted their small space with quiet, untraceable modesty, just wondering about this life, wondering about the next one, wondering about the sun, why it burned so bright, and wondering about the night, why it hovered so beautifully and why these upright creatures were so inept in perceiving and embracing its beauty.

The double quarantine was lifted, eventually, a couple of days late, and the men went back to work, more panicked, angry and faux-glib than ever, the women standing squat, glaring at delivery drivers, soft and sullen, accepting of their roles as existential subservients. In their heads were myriads and droves of drugs — narcotics, opioids, various substances to get someone through pregnancy and through the workday. In their minds were Medicaid vouchers, baby showers, vice, TV and the aural essences of their own voices. And time moved on, like a song, like the cinematic spectacle of a saw cutting bone, of waiting, of blood turning bacterial on a miscellaneous day.

“The Displeasure Principle: A Phone Conversation”

“Listen, Fred. I’ll explain women in expedited fashion. At least women around here. They operate on the displeasure principle. It’s similar to the concept of in Indian times the father asking for gifts of animals for the daughter’s hand in marriage. They require a sacrifice. They think of themselves as prizes, as gifts, almost like a monetary entity. But, to their credit, they think money is a little shallow. But displeasure is right up their alley. They want you to fight, to get hurt, to walk five miles in the snow to get a spare tire… anything that entails a large sum of displeasure, a mass of suffering that is to be your key to enjoyment of them and their company. Ingenuous interaction is dead. Culture is dead.  A balanced man with peace of mind is worth nothing to a woman around here. In fact, they see it as a vice. But, I mean, you don’t have to play by their rules. Chances are there will still be some action trickling in. But you’ll have to sift for it and you’ll be the cultural outlier. I know, I love wolfing down wings and nachos too. I just ate 18 jumbo wings and a pile of Adobo beef nachos during that Michigan/Alabama game. And, of course, it wasn’t long before they were knocking on my door.”

“The Salesman”

I walk into the Verizon store where my mom is waiting for me. We’re set to get a new phone for me. I’m on her plan that she’s not even on, if that gives you any idea of how fu**ed up this whole situation is.

When I walk into the store, I notice the salesman’s eyes cemented onto me with the utmost intensity, face braced in a stone posture and bulbous blue eyes filling up the room. I quickly look down and avoid eye contact with him. And I think, ok, that was pretty bad. Obviously things are going to get better from here.

We’ve been told the phone were going to be free but then he’s saying things like “$100 gets you out the door,” or, if I buy an excess of unconscionable, unneeded sh**, then “$200 gets you out the door.” It’s mostly my mom talking to him and eventually we settle on the $100 package. She offers to pay so I feel a little better but I say I can pay for it. My blood pressure has been up around 150 lately so I’m extra happy for the good mirth from her.

The time comes to get my new phone. It comes out and the salesman explains that it’s smaller than my old one, which was an LG. So my old case won’t fit around it. I have to buy a new case. My mom keeps telling me I need a new case. I decline. I forget the price but it’s completely ludicrous.

Then comes the charger, which is incompatible with my laptop, on which Ive been charging my old phone and then going about my merry way. The new one has totally different hookups and the guy tells me I can get a “block,” with the female charger hookup and male wall hookup, for $30.

I stand up and say, “I don’t need it. I don’t need a phone today.” I don’t know what the He** I’m going to do but anything seems better than getting fu**ed over for this stupid government spying instrument by this golden boy who has the nerve to say something like the customer service itself cost $100, and say it with a straight face, what’s more.

The salesman’s manager hears my ire and dismissal and comes over, calms me down and lowers my eventual total to $50, on what is supposed to be a free phone. I whiz a mile up the street to Radio Shack and snag a $7 charger that works just fine. And I still have no ability to apply on Doordash or Instacart. Some things never change. But I think of that salesman there, sitting with those boisterous blue eyes that strangle you with faux-vulnerable indignation as you try to monitor your precious money going down the toilet. I think how he’s been tailor-made for this world: he’ll believe any lie, walk any walk, do any dance for anyone as long as the shining, faceless, metallic and cancerous void tells him it’s “right.”

“Untitled 357”

They got the kid

For pacing up and down the sideline

When the ball was nowhere near —

Technical foul, one shot for the other team.

.

The kid was in a long-sleeve t-shirt

And it was his first time being

On cable TV in his entire life.

.

I thought of the man in uniform,

How it might be a slug-like metamorphosis

Into the impetus to cage,

To trap heat and light,

To kill it,

And my mind filled with rage.

.

Then they showed the kid sitting on the bench

With his teammates,

Face plastered in a 16-tooth smile

And loud, quick chatter all around

As the ball

On the other side of the court

Graced front iron,

Then back iron,

Then ejected out the front of the cylinder

To bounce on the floor.

.

And the phone companies

And departments of treasury

And skin machine

Might still win

But that was pretty fu**ing cool.

“Like Black Ice”

Talking to the Canadian woman,

27 or so,

In the Walgreens in North Carolina,

.

I am observing how she stands

Patiently and easily, making

Voluminous eye contact with

Dark, non-expressive but

.

Softly inviting eyes.

.

She is alarmingly marked by

The fact that she is not frightened,

Not acting like I am a rapist

Or a degraded individual

Or like she is in any danger

.

And she sees this surprise in me

And she is taking in

The great, bleeding experiment

.

That is America,

An opaque bath of darkness,

A liquid nitrogen tank

.

Of pain and desperation.

“An Analysis of the ‘Non-Sequitur Red Bull Commercial’”

Anybody who’s been watching TV in the last five years knows that these animated Red Bull commercials are pretty much the pinnacle of existence. They feature droll, unique little characters, all drawn in soothing, pastel tones, and range from cute, to bizarre, to downright mind-blowing, as is the case with one of the most recent installments. In the spot I’m discussing, a group of parrots sits on a tree branch, all expressing the same plaint, in rapid clamoring, of “It’s not like the good ol’ days.”

The first thing I’d like to mention about this particular moment is the sharp element of human vice that’s offered. The writer, in fact, is appealing to our emotions, in the sense that anybody watching this segment would feel an active disdain for these plaintive oafs and their lazy, selfish din. This is important because, ultimately, this commercial is to act as a snapshot of the lowest of human mentality — one that would be associated with the complete lack of vision and ideal and which would tailor in the firm tendency to resist change, like a society adhering obstinately to antiquated ideals.

Anyway, the grieving parrots are met, ultimately, by an older parrot. The older bird comes bequeathing Red Bull drinks to them, in a move that’s ultimately inconsequential but humorous for its tongue-in-cheek attachment of Red Bull with innovation and with heightened human cognition. The commercial is essentially responding to a straw man figure, that is — one that doesn’t really exist but perhaps represents something adjacent to a person’s prideful unwillingness to take advice or to go against the grain of general thinking. These maladies are represented by the five identical birds who were on the tree brach initially.

Upon giving them the drinks, the older parrot declares that they “Stop parroting (sic) everything… instead, drink a Red Bull, and think for yourselves.” One irony here, of course, is that the older parrot does not take exception to the fact that they’re complaining and doing so in such a ridiculous fashion, but rather just the fact that they’re all mimicking each other. So he’s not even burdening them with the obligation of optimism and maximization of resources, but rather, just, an initiative toward original thought and away from issuing ideas which are identical to those of others. This is important, again, because it serves to stir up more ire in the viewer, as the identical birds are only insolent and cross with his request. Their abhorrent responses then come in the forms of, respectively, “Since when do you dictate what we do?”; “Exactly… you’re not the boss of us!” and “Power to the people!”

By the end of this exchange, then, the viewer has beheld a level of discursive human baseness and mental atrophy that’s almost unprecedented in the history of television or cinema. The effect, of course, is comedic, or tragicomic, perhaps, as if representing a significant annihilation of human society by way of these obfuscatory, prideful tendencies to herd mentality and resistance to change. The identical birds on the initial branch have taken the advice to gain individuality and shamed it, ultimately adhering to uniform mental assimilation to each other and, hence, a complete lack of a self, or individual identity. Of course, in the fact that the older guru’s request was to think for themselves and stop following the path of others, lies the overarching irony of the commercial — even the impetus toward free thought and away from assimilation can be accepted as an act of coercion, given a prideful and obstinate enough mind in the given member of society. It may very well be a reaction to those who would take offense to “non-conformists” (for a while I think there was a shirt that said “All you non-conformists are all the same”): this type of person likely is incapable of forging their own path in life and is highly inclined to belikening themselves to others when it comes to things like dress, behavior and attitudes. But their very antipathy toward the concept of individuality obviates a certain lowered mental element, like fear or insecurity, and so they go on existing in the quagmire of uniformity, of course, at the same time, lacking happiness and inclined toward lazy, oafish statements like “It’s not like the good ol’ days.”