March 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

The first time I went skiing I fell so hard
that one entire side of my thigh turned purplish-black,
the color of eggplants, or of fertile soil in the spring.
I developed strange habits to avoid pain,
sitting with my legs curled to the opposite side,
adjusting the showerhead so the water
only hit healthy tissue. At night
I’d run my fingers over the skin,
imagining that each pulse of warmth I felt
came from individual hemoglobin molecules
breaking down and dissipating. After many nights
the bruise began to fade, receding millimeter
by millimeter, revealing strong, uninjured muscle.
On cooler days I swear my skin still tingles
as if it remembers how easily the blood vessels
beneath it were broken, or how dangerous
my own weight can be, if applied improperly.
I carry each pound carefully. My body is slow
to heal, slow to forget, yet it heals each injury,
intentional or not: black eyes, pierced ears,
broken fingernails. Sometimes I think
that my memories of you will be deathless,
that I will never again be able to loosen
the muscles in my chest and throat, that every
whispered I wish or I want will never fade,
but I know that this will also heal.
Maybe your spirit will pass behind me
as I make coffee, early in the morning.
Maybe somehow, as far away
in time and space as you are,
you are healing, too.

SFTN #3: Jesu, “Opiate Sun”

March 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Band: Jesu
Song: Opiate Sun
Album: Opiate Sun (2009)
Genre: Metalgaze
Origin: Wales

Before I start this post I want to show you this quote from Jesu’s Wiki article:

Broadrick himself has made it known that he does not consider Jesu to fall into any of these categories and that he has been intentionally writing what he considers to be coherent and structured pop songs.

Go listen to the song up there.  Go on, have a listen.  Does that sound like a coherent pop song to you?

Anyway, if that’s what Justin Broadrick wants to think about his music, that’s totally fine.  It’s his baby.  All I know is that I’ve never been a huge fan of shoegaze, but I can’t remember a single Jesu song that I haven’t liked.

Before beginning Jesu, Justin Broadrick had already achieved a level of fame as the vocalist for the venerable industrial metal band Godflesh.  Something spiritual and life-changing must have happened to Broadrick in the 19 years between Streetcleaner and Opiate Sun; that or he just got tired of the chugging atonality of industrial metal and wanted to try something a bit lighter.  Come to think of it, compared to early Godflesh, Jesu is basically pop music.

Although Opiate Sun is in the major tonality, its lyrics are far from uplifting:

They’re resisting how they’re feeling.
They’ll just blindly keep believing.
They’re resisting how they’re feeling.
They’ll just blindly keep believing.

The contrast between the upbeat chords and the depressing lyrics, as well as between the semi-droning guitars and Justin’s perishing alt rock voice, make for a transcendent listening experience.  I really can’t think of many other bands off the top of my head that can give me a drugless high like this one, except maybe Tool, but who wants to listen to Tool all the time?  That’s just weird.

I’ve taken actual opiates several times in the past – always in the recommended dose and for legitimate medical problems, of course – and I never got much of a high from them, they just put me to sleep for six hours and gave me a fuzzy mouth and horrid constipation when I woke up.  Opiate Sun gives me the “hazy” feeling without any of the nasty side effects.  Jesu: doing the Lord’s work (haha get it) since 2003.

Prayers for the Dying [Spring 2013]

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Several days ago, Tumblr emailed me asking if I still wanted my old account.  The last time I posted on this account was during the summer of 2013.  No, I didn’t want it anymore – but before I deleted it, I browsed through its “poetry” tag.  Much of the poetry I wrote before this blog was started has been lost, so I was happy to find some of my old work.  This is a poem about Omayra Sanchez, written for my advanced poetry workshop during my sophomore year of college.

November 13

The sky is wood and concrete,
gray ash, one silver sliver turning slowly peach
and then gold. I reach for the dust,
feeling warmth slip through my fingertips.

Lahar, which means mudslide,
which means people made of clay
and noises in the distance,
is neither English nor Spanish.
Screams are no language, either.
When they pull on my arms I scream
from a place cracked open by mud.

We’ll have to get a pump, they say.

November 14

I teach the photographer the songs
my mother taught me. His Spanish
is so slow and flat, I laugh
even though it hurts. My head spins
between drinks of Coca-Cola
and bites of bread.

I am kneeling on something soft,
softer than earth, and I think it’s
a person. The sun is too hot.
I smell bad and my legs
are falling asleep.

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

(I can’t go to school like this.)

November 15

When my friends and I quiz each other
for math, I always do the best.
My aunt pats my head. So smart, she says.

The photographer takes a picture, so
I smile a little, rest my hand on my pillow.

It’s brighter when I close my eyes,
and the farther away he gets,
the louder my name becomes,
each syllable a little exploding dart

Omayra Omayra Omayra

Nothing divided by nothing is still nothing.

“On Turning Ten” – Billy Collins

February 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

[February 12]

February 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

This might not be the end of everything.
If it were, surely it would not smell like
lemon dish soap, not taste like violets
and salt. It’s easy to get trapped
in this little bubble, watching waves of time
approach, cascade around you, disappear
into the distance. Easy to pretend
that you alone are timeless. Outside, the trees
are absolutely still. The coldest days are
clear, sunny, unforgiving, harsh and bright,
so cold that frost forms around the corners
of your bedroom window, which you remember
being told would happen. This may be what grieving
feels like now. The thousand nerves in your gut
alive again with pain. The controlled panic
of your heart.

January 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s a cold day in Minnesota.  Sky and earth are the same shade of alien, unending white.  This is my home now, but for the past few days I’ve been missing Houston, the city I used to call home, more than ever.  Right now, I couldn’t miss it more.  I feel as cold and unearthly as the weather outside, because today I learned that my fellow Rice student, Sam Waters, is gone.

I haven’t seen Sam for quite some time.  As I sit here, different memories flit through my mind, memories from when we were both younger, when we both lived in Texas.  I remember Sam visiting our floor and then singing in the elevator all the way down to the basement, his powerful voice echoing off the walls of the elevator shaft.  I remember giggling with my friend as we listened to him, half amazed at his talent, half laughing at his warm, carefree attitude.

I remember sitting up late drawing the spirit animals of my floor-mates.  I am not an artist, so a lot of the pictures came out … odd, but I taped them up anyway.  One Saturday night, Sam was hanging out in the study lobby, and he looked carefully at the pictures I had drawn.

“Did you draw all of these?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“They’re beautiful,” he said, his face and voice completely sincere.  At the time, I thought he must be crazy to think that my art was anywhere near beautiful.  But now I think I know what he meant; he was admiring the hours of work I’d put into the drawings, how much I cared about my floor-mates to do something like that, even if I was only a slightly creepy, slightly depressed underclassman.

I also remember later on, learning that he was sick, and the surprise I felt the first time I saw him after I got the news.  It was the night of the last party of the year, and I was either on my way to the party or going home when I saw him and his friends in one of the breezeways at Brown.  They were shaving his head, and as I got closer some of the music majors broke into an impromptu barbershop quartet.  I felt the love that all of us had for Sam, keeping us warm despite the cool spring wind.

I always thought of Sam as someone who was superhuman, because he was so talented, so handsome, so strong in faith, mind, and body.  I realize now that wasn’t fair.  Sam was human, just like the rest of us, but he was good despite his imperfections.  I will look up to him always.

My thoughts go out to Sam’s friends and family, and to the entire Rice community.  I miss him so much.  I miss you all so much.


SFTN #2: Bring Me The Horizon, “Can You Feel My Heart”

January 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Band: Bring Me The Horizon
Song: Can You Feel My Heart
Album: Sempiternal (2013)
Genre: Metalcore
Origin: England

When I was in high school, I was a contributor to (and later the editor of) our school’s literary magazine.  During my senior year, I was basically in charge of the club, and it was my job to teach the other three members creative writing.  This didn’t always go very well since there was no age difference between us, and the class often devolved into free writing time – which could really have gone worse, all things considered, so I guess I was lucky.

Towards the beginning of the year, we each contributed three songs that represented us in some way to an iTunes playlist.  I burned CDs and gave each person a copy.  One of the songs submitted was an early Bring Me The Horizon song, “Chelsea Smile.”  It’s been on my iPhone ever since, and never fails to startle me and then make me a bit nostalgic when it comes up on shuffle.

Bring Me The Horizon belongs to the metalcore genre, along with bands like Atreyu, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!  Half thrash metal, half hardcore, metalcore lends itself to raw, emotive lyrics.  While I think BMTH is still too heavy to qualify as true “emo” music, I can definitely see the similarity in aesthetics and lyrical content.

BMTH’s early albums, like Suicide Season and Count Your Blessings, are heavy on the blast beats, downtuned guitars, and metal screaming.  Count Your Blessings even has some good death growls.  If Oli Sykes does all of the vocals, he really has impressive range.

In the song at the top of the post, Sykes has turned to strained yet clean vocals, reminiscent of Thirty Seconds to Mars.  The background guitar audible from about 1:15 to 1:30 really improves the experience of the song for me, since it prevents the electronic-sounding … thing? is that the lead guitar? from getting too repetitive.  What’s most interesting is that the lyrics don’t really rhyme, but they work anyway.  This would be less noteworthy if the song weren’t slow enough for one to actually understand the lyrics.  I think the content of the lyrics along with the emotional style of singing helps move the song.

See, you don’t have to rhyme every time you sing.