Day 83: Nikita Gill again

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If you are choosing a wolf, be careful.

Wolves have kindness. They have hearts and souls, strength and pride and nobility behind their torchlight eyes, but they also have teeth and claws. These are kept sharp for a reason. They cut, and if you are not careful, they can cut deep. Blood leaves stains that are hard to wash out.

The wolves know this. They have cut themselves on their own claws for long enough and bear the scars to prove it. You should know it too. Do not choose a wolf if you are afraid of these things. Remember that not all scars heal and you cannot heal all scars. But those you can, can shine.


Day 82: Richard Siken

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This is an excerpt from Richard Siken’s ‘War of the Foxes’, which I found by tracking down the resonant line: ‘All wars are the same war’.


Full Poem: War of the Foxes by Richard Siken

Two rabbits were chased by a fox, of all the crazy shit in the world and the fox kept up the chase, circling the world until the world caught up with them in some broken down downtown metropolis. Inside the warren, the rabbits think fast. Pip touches the only other rabbit listening.

Pip: We’re doomed!

Flip: Oh Pip!

Pip: I know where you can hide.

Flip: Are you sure?

Pip: Yes. Here, hide inside me.

This is the story of Pip and Flip, the bunny twins. We say that once there were two and now there is only one. When the fox sees Pip run past, he won’t know that the other is inside the other. He’ll think, well, there’s at least one more rabbit in that warren, but no one’s left. You know this and I know this. Together, we trace out the trail away from doom.

There isn’t hope, there is a trail. I follow you. When a rabbit meets a rabbit, one takes the time to tell the other the story. Rabbits then agree that there must be two rabbits, at least two rabbits, and then in turn there is a trace. I am only repeating what I heard. This one is love. There are many loves, but only one war.

Bird 1: This is the same story.

Bird 2: No, this is the rest of the story.

Let me tell you a story about war:

A man found his life to be empty. He began to study Latin. Latin was difficult for the man to understand. I will study Latin even though it is difficult, said the man. Yes, even if it is difficult.

Let me tell you a story about war:

A man had a dream about a woman and then he met her. The man had a dream about the woman’s former lover. The former lover was sad, he wanted to fight. The man said to the woman, I will have to comfort your former lover or I will always be fighting him in my dreams. Yes, said the woman. You will need to comfort him or we will never be finished with this.

Let me tell you a story about war:

A fisherman’s son and his dead brother sat on the shore. That is my country and this is your country and the line in the sand is the threshold between them, said the dead brother. Yes, said the fisherman’s son. You cannot have an opponent if you keep saying yes.

Bird 1: This is the wrong story.

Bird 2: All stories are the wrong story when you are impatient.

Let me tell you a story about war:

A man says to another man, Can I tell you something? The other man says, No. A man says another man, There is something I have to tell you. No, says the other man. No you don’t.

Bird 1: Now we are getting somewhere.

Bird 2: Yes. Yes we are.

Let me tell you a story about war:

A boy spills a glass of milk and his father picks him up by the back of his shirt and throws him against the wall. “You killed my wife and you can’t even keep a glass on the table.” The wife had died of sadness, by her own hand. The father walks out of the room and the room is almost empty.

The road outside the house lies flat on the ground. The ground surrenders. The father works late. The dead wife’s hand makes fishsticks while the boy sits in the corner where he fell. The fish in the fishsticks think to themselves, “This is not what we meant to be.” Its roots in the ground and its branches in the air, a tree is pulled in two directions.
The wife has a dead hand. This is earlier. She is living and her dead hand feeds her pills that don’t work. The boy sleeps on the roof or falls out of trees. The father works late. The wife looks out the window and thinks, “Not this.”

The boy is a bird, bad bird. He falls out of trees.

Let me tell you a story about war:

The fisherman’s son serves drinks to sailors. He stands behind the bar. He listens closely for news of his dead brother. The sailors are thirsty. They drink rum. Tell me a story, says the fisherman’s son. There is nothing interesting about the sea. The water is flat, flat and calm. It seems a sheet of glass. You look at it, the more you look at it, the more you feel like you are looking into your own head, which is a stranger’s head, empty. We listen to sound with our equipment. I have learned to understand the sound. When we look, there is nothing. With the equipment, there is sound. We sit in rows and listen down the tunnels for the song. The song has red words in it. We write them down on sheets of paper and pass them along. Sometimes, there is noise and sometimes song and often there is silence. The long tunnel, the sea, like glass.

You are a translator, says the fisherman’s son.

Yes, says the sailor.

And the sound is the voice of the enemy.

Yes, yes it is.

Let me tell you a story about war:

They went to the museum and wandered the rooms. He saw a painting and stood in front of it for too long. It was a few minutes before he realized he had gotten stuck. He was stuck looking at a painting. She stood next to him, looking at his face and then the face in the painting. What do you see, she asked. I don’t know, he said. He didn’t know. She was disappointed, then bored. He was looking at a face and she was looking at her watch.

This is where everything changed. There was now a distance between them. He was looking at a face, but it might as well have been a cabbage or a sugar beet. Perhaps it was something about yellow near pink. He didn’t know how to say it. Years later, he still didn’t know how to say it, and she was gone.

Let me tell you a story about love:

There was a place on the floor where they could lie together, on the floor together, backs pressed to the carpet, where the could look out the window together and see only the tops of trees. The would do this. They would lie on the floor and say things like ‘Now we are in the country!’ or ‘Oh what a faraway place this is!’ Then they would stand up and look out the window the way they usually did, the houses reappearing in the window frame. She had a soft voice and strong hands. When she sang, she would seem too large for the room and she would play guitar and sing which would make his chest feel huge. Sometimes she would touch his knee and smile. Sometimes she would touch his face and close her eyes.

Fox rounds the warren but there are no bunnies, jumps up with claws but there are no bunnies, moves down the road but there are no bunnies. There are no bunnies. He chases a bird instead. All wars are the same war. The bird flies away.

The fisherman’s son knows nothing worth stealing. Perhaps, perhaps.

He once put a cat in a cardboard box but she got out anyway. He once had a brother he lost to the sea. Brother, dead brother, who speaks to him in dreams. These are a few things worth saying.

He knows that when you snap a mast it’s time to get a set of oars or learn how to breathe
underwater. Rely on one thing too long and when it disappears and you have nothing… well, that’s just bad planning. It’s embarrassing, to think it could never happen.

A man does work. A machine can, too. Power of agency, agent of what. This is a question we might ask. An agent is a spy or not. A spy is a promise to God, hidden where only God can find it.

The agents meet at the chain link fence and tell each other stories. A whisper system. To testify against yourself is an interesting thing, a sacrifice. Some people do it. Some people find money in the street but you cannot rely on it. The fisherman’s son is at the fence, standing there, waiting to see if he is useful.

You cannot get in the way of anyone’s path to God. You can, but is does no good. Every agent knows this. Some say God is where we put our sorrow. God says, Which one of you fuckers can get to me first?

You cannot get in the way of anyone’s path to happiness, it also does no good. The problem is figuring out which part is the path and which part is the happiness.

It’s a blessing, every day someone shows up at the fence. And when no one shows up, a different kind of blessing. In the wrong light anyone can look like a darkness.














Day 81: Tyler Knott Gregson

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Tyler Knott Gregson‘s poetry makes me think of sunshine. There’s a warmth to his words that feel like a pleasant summer evening, like home and hearth and friendship. Even his colder and rainier poems never hurt in the way that most sad poems would. Read his work, he’s wonderful.

I was looking for a good poem to illustrate for Pride Month and this one stood out to me. It could refer to any kind of love in any kind of situation at all, and like with nearly all published words, the context is left to the reader. It took all of three minutes to paint, but sometimes, the simplest picture can say enough.


Day 80: Atticus again

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Writing poetry and writing prose are different.

Both require a modicum of truth to do it well, something honest at its center. With prose, you can construct walls around it, hide it under layers of plot and action and characters. That honest core is only there for people who are paying attention when they’re reading.

Poetry, however, has a stronger tendency to strip you raw. The honesty required for that is more stark, more pronounced, and it can leave you exposed like a nerve. It’s hard to hide behind lines of poetry and hard to write them if your brain is working on overdrive.

I believe it was Hemingway who said that good writing comes from truth, but it takes a level of courage to put that kind of truth into words and then put those words out into the world. One day, maybe.


Day 79: Rupi Kaur

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Shoes appear and disappear from thresholds. Sometimes, they change. Other times, they stay where they are and grow old and well-worn. Sometimes, they vanish for years at a time and come back out of the blue, looking bright and shiny like not a day has passed. Their place is not always earned or deserved, but try telling that to shoes.

Rupi Kaur is a Canadian-Indian poet, writer, and illustrator. Read her work, there’s a quiet beautiful depth to her.


Day 78: Sarah Williams

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Once, I was on a trip with some friends. We had gone to a hill station where one of us had a family tea estate and were staying in a little cottage there up on the hill. It was a bit outside the nearby city, which was little more than a smattering of golden light down in the valley. That’s all it seemed from so far away. When we reached the cottage, it was evening. We dropped our stuff there, took a walk to his family home where we had dinner, and when we returned, it was a good few hours past sunset. There were no artificial lights and we were high up, almost close to the clouds, or at least that was how it felt. The air was cool with a breeze, a far cry from the sweltering summer heat back at home. The darkness was a comfort and we sat out on the porch for some time before going in. I settled down on the sparse grass, lay down, and turned my eyes toward the skies.

I don’t think I’d ever seen so many stars in my life. There were millions of them, smattered across the blue-violet-black gap among the trees, careless sprays of dot-lights with hidden patterns in that consuming darkness. I thought of those stars burning light years away, great gas giants in their glory, nebulae birthing new stars, dead stars whose light was still traveling, ghost stars whispering last stories in pinpricks of light. There were so many of them. There were just so many.

I had to be called a few times and shaken out of my haze to get up and come inside. There was a lovely quiet in my head for a long time after that.

(The line has a different meaning in the context of the entire poem. It’s a little more ‘do not go gently into that good night’, but I’ve illustrated what it meant to me.)


Full Poem: The Old Astronomer (to his Pupil) by Sarah Williams (1837 – 1868)

Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, – I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, ‘tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and wiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, ’twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.