I wrote these short essays in sequence, and I haven't touched them since.
January 8, 2021
Short Talk on Startups
Paralytic under the cavernous backdrop of murmuring keys, clacking to find something buried - a bug, we're told. A bug means something clogging the way to working conveniently, with ease, and there sure are many of them: a swarm. Learning on the job is the name of the game, but there is too much business too much noise to learn, and learning should simply be your gift. If you can't give your learning away freely, you do not care. Free learning, the labor of attention and growth, is the only ticket, the only mode of entry, the only way to feel grace in waves of text and an endless sea of muted keys being decked by fast fingers across the country between tin cans and long, tangled strings.
January 10, 2021
Short Talk on the Multiverse
"Time -- and the killing hours it contained..." - The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, by Michael Zapata
There I am in the church, beating my arms through the air for groggy voices that will, despite my tension, remain disjunct. And there, curled at the edge of a platform, gnashing teeth and covered in a dense film of verse, inciting emotional backflips for a hushed, hanging audience. I am intimate and grand there, and also here amid your arms, backside between your folded legs, entangled number 4s. And here, with my pen, trying to draw a map without stars, or a ship, or even a wet finger in the wind.
January 11, 2021
Short Talk on Fighting a Demon
His silver voice doesn't need a tongue, it is sharp enough and can reach into anything, and take away things I thought were mine. There are those names it's best not to say, best not even to graze one's eyes against, for fear of burning. Igniting the presence takes no action on his part, only an accidental incantation whispered in a corner, and one loose memory stitched back against a tense body, cut into place through flesh with a hot needle, to stay there, to itch. For fingers to grab at and pull away from the body; throw down a hall, its bright fire licking the walls as it flies, casting flares and sneers back your way.
January 12, 2021
Short Talk on Obsolescence as a Goal
They are saying my goal at work should be to make myself obsolete. I should, they are saying, spend my time thinking of the things I do so that I can imagine ways of doing less, a rhythmic thought parade toward rest. Rest and being not needed. I am the computer's crutch. I am a leg for those closer to this nirvanic role of final pause, echoing release to stand on, and there is so much on the way to nothing.
January 15, 2021
Short Talk on Pleading Ignorance
It has always struck me that ignorance has the verb inside it, an activity of looking away. Though would we not love to blanket ourselves in that encompassing noun, which is said also to contain bliss ... perhaps -- even -- to be followed after by kind, patient instruction. There is so much I don't know, of anything and all of it. So much, it would be true, I'd rather not know to shade myself forever in the potential for forgiveness.
January 16, 2021
Short Talk on an Hourglass
It wasn't an hour. We timed it in the car on the way back from the thirft store -- it was eight bucks, and I wondered if I would like it more if it were encased in wood, as classic ones in my mind's eye usually are. I decided I liked it best, just as it was, bare, with bleached sand. The glass thinned out away from the center where sand passed from one end to the next, measuring time wrapped by a thick layer of magnifying, cylindrical glass. We joked we could use it to measure the time from one cocktail to the next. I watched the thin stream of sand build a mound in the center of the already accumulated bed, and I tilted the glass back and forth to disturb the mound with grooves, the strings left by gravity, a little dance of dust. I fancied myself ominous, and was careful with it. But it didn't want to stay in our home. Within minutes, it fell and shattered into thin fragments that sounded like wind chimes when I swept them up. There is still sand between my toes, even after vaccuuming.
January 20, 2021
Short Talk on Breathing to Sing
When is it enough? Where is it made? In the throat? In the chest? In the belly? How does it leave you? Fast? Slow? Easily? With resistance? Are you supposed to think of it? Or not? Are you supposed to imagine, something? Something other than a breath? Is it supposed to be a flower? A drink of water? A sneeze? A yawn? Should the air be moist? Or dry? And when is it done? When do you start the tone? When do you let go and sing? Is there a right time, or do you have to wait until you know how to build a breath, like stuffing the lungs with cotton and zipping up the back to send yourself home with a toddler, as a teddy bear? What is all this breathing for if not to produce a sound that can be heard as well within the back of a skull as in a hall? And yet, here you are, breathing and breathing and breathing without so much as a whisper.
January 21, 2021
Short Talk on Being Human
There isn't a glass ceiling on growth, really, but there is death. Laughter feels good. Sex, too, and drinking. And eating late on a weeknight. And there may be a part of it where you can lay next to somebody while they're sleeping. No one can own your hurt but you, which means nobody can tell you what to make of it. Not even Gods.
January 26, 2021
Short Talk on Risk
Another word for it is vulnerability, a thing my therapist tells me I sohuld cultivate more of. I've felt it, though. I've acted it out in the words and touches of the arm and in moves, sudden and slow, around dangerous objects. When I told you goodbye on that summer evening when the air was thick and wet the way our bodies had been that night some two weeks before in your un-air-conditioned apartment, furiously fusing with each other in blatant disregard of all the time galloping out -- when I kissed you and knew you had never wanted this, and that you'd known how it would hurt, and here you were, hurting like a fool who can't help but hurt. You held your arms stiff, signaling the firmness of your goodbye, my cue to exit, and I wondered how anyone is ever supposed to decide when pain is worth it.
January 27, 2021
Short Talk on Moving
You never know how much stuff you own until you stare at it piled up on one side of the room, waiting to be loaded into a truck and driven across state lines to be the same stuff somewhere else. Ruthlessness comes and goes, in waves as you leave things on the curb to be taken off; a fan, a red bicycle that got you through the summers in high school. What you keep is what you are afraid to lose: the books you fancy yourself reading, but haven't; the soda stream because you want to be a person who makes things instead of buying them, constantly, in plastics. The sting of leaving doesn't ever quite get bandaged by the new place, since it's all just a leaving, and another and another and another...
Shorter Talk on Moving
You keep the screws, even though you haven't a clue what they go to. But you'd rather not end up in trouble.
Bryce McClendon, they/them