Death & life are in the power of the tongue.
“Sometimes faith feels more like cataracts than clarity...”
Part introspective journey and part religious commentary, Cataracts follows Levi The Poet’s storytelling into a deconstructive critique of modern evangelicalism, tragedy and the world he thought he knew... and what rebuilding might mean after the curtain has been torn back on the Great and Powerful Oz.
When I became the center of my gospel, I was tongue deep, rudder dead center, worshipping between one leg out in front of me – expository, annotating, complimentarian masturbating, tradition praising. Traditionalistically berating traditionalists who failed to exists beneath the solas - and another leg that simply felt like power against my jawbone.
We were a byproduct of the benefit of the doubt – compliments of the congregation consistently consenting itself to sit beneath the smallest, syncretistic decisions (rebranded as resurgence, sold as ecumenicism). Call it rapture. Call it reconciliation. Call it the second coming, call it consummation. Call it whatever your spiritual gift of communication can call it to quantifiably convert converts into consumers – call it replication. Call it a calloused conscience that condescends your vocation. Call it condemnable. Call it a misappropriation of their calling: calling command into consideration. Call it clearly, exegetically rooted in creation. Call it an unconscionably reasonable explanation.
Call it covenant and constantly call their commitment into question. Call it community and constantly second-guess them.
Call it the body. Call it the body.
Call it the bride and make sure she gives you headship. Call it the first among equals and crown out the diadem and if you love her slow enough you'll start to swallow your own press so somehow the neck is still to blame.
it was love at first threat.
her knees went weak for confidence so even though her friends said that she should "call it what it is,” she simply fell deeper in love and when he’d raise his fists and ask her just who in the hell she thinks that she is, she’d tell him it was all about Jesus, and submit.
in 1976, she was too terrified to resist, and “authority” had already become a position synonymous with “God,” so apologies issued from proponents of the covering couldn’t keep the fear out of her. his tears from the pulpit were a comfort at first but they pooled in shapes like convenience constantly redistributing its weight back and forth along the planks of a seesaw, and you can only feign trustworthy for so long before being cut off after someone with a golden ear hears the script.
it appears as though there is such a thing as a victim, though she could never admit it until the pastor propositioned its existence (and specifically as it stood in relationship to him). and all of the sudden the movement is exposed as illusion.
she said that the hardest thing she had to do was admit that she was abused.
you never get it until you do.
“i refused to use words like ‘stockholm’ or ‘syndrome’ or ‘hostage’ but it was a robbery and it was violent and it was 15 years of my life and i’m still trying to figure out who the thief is and whether or not he broke down the door or if i left it unlocked and invited him in.”
at first you feel nothing, and then the anger seeps in. let it be righteous. at least something is.
they say that "rage is what happens inside when our soul finally awakens from living a lie" and it doesn’t help to deny it. there are stages to the scales that slide off of our eyes like serpents shedding skin and letting the death molt.
“get it off of me.”
the disillusionment manifests in stagnant melancholy and she keeps thinking there’s got to be a reason as clean as the teaching’s always been.
it was love at first threat.
but even though patty hearst defended her offense as duress affecting intent, it didn’t stand to deflect the judgement that found her compliant and guilty of theft.
so who’s stealing from who?
i keep filing out confusion from underneath my fingernails like gunshot residue. like a constant reminder that i held a weapon, too. like i helped pull the trigger and then deferred all of the blame to you. like complicity written all over me. like biblical masculinity that i crushed my wife beneath. like she needed me as the assurance of things hoped for but as yet unseen.
was the devil’s deceit so deeply indwelt that when he fell, he didn’t realize he was falling?
will i discover myself in the depths of hell singing songs to the wrong angel of light?
i can still remember the moment when, like a scalpel so sharp he didn't notice it, my best friend mentioned black specs in the window panes and said he loved what i'd done with the place and paint splatter. (or like a settlement crack when the pre-cast masonry shrinks and expands, but it feels like the foundation shifting and when the concrete contracts like that the slab simply sinks into the sand on which it stands.)
no wonder he's stumbling over the cornerstone with figurative eyes full of floaters and flashes and fibers projecting jackson pollock paintings dripping and alcoholic and brushing abstracts into life.
well anyway, the incisions in his vision cobwebbed out like varicose veins and when he finally realized that my walls were white, afraid was the only word that he found to articulate the way the blood spread, bruising beneath his faith. like a child scribbling something new into the pages of her coloring book, it kept refusing to stay inside of the lines, and he kept wondering if love really shows up to cast it out.
i've seen it in the nudity that the spirit seeks beneath the post-it-notes as fig leaves that I stick to myself like pithy, adhesive truisms could be my covering. there is something sacred about standing naked and blurred by the condensation in the mirror – that glass darkly, that fog – the way that knowledge came with a cost that taught me that certainty is not peace, and trust is more than belief, and surrender is more than a verbal assent to the idea of surrendering.
in confidence, my mother said that she wonders if there are some things that just will not be reconciled on this side of death. and i used to have her pegged as an escapist but what else is there to do but give up when clenched fists and vengeance still don't produced what they've intended?
can you be tender enough with yourself to flesh it out? to let the mess be what it is? we pummeled the constructs to dust and stared at it like, "well, where do we go from here?" that earth looks a lot like what we're made of. self-flagellation is what it is regardless of whether you call it penitent or progressive sanctification. is the word as retributive as we made him?
she heard my plea for mercy before i knew how to speak it. one morning, in her living room, i tried. the sunlight shone in through windows that lifted the colors of roses she had dried and hanging upside down in a row against the white on the wall, blood red like a foreshadowing and a sacrament.
i said, "i'm paralyzed. everything that has been so right for so long now just seems so wrong, and i don't know how to start over, and i don't know how to hope for anything beyond the approval of men who, somehow, had me convinced that buying their indulgences was the equivalent of hearing the voice of God.
how do i learn to hear him if they're gone?"
What began in the spirit, I fleshed out in analytics, and mimicked his voice until I wasn't sure I could actually hear it. The comparisons were subtle pivots compared to more pivotal problems
(but that was the problem, and the comparisons didn't solve them). I missed the trees for the
forest that dominated my vision – shifted pyramidal positions into a schema that fit my religion.
Each schism was a small price to pay for the mission, but I just couldn't convince the critics to
Listen, every decision is infinite. Every compounding incision thickens the cut that started
it. When I started tip-toeing with the lusts of the flesh, I thought it was love, and it became
exactly that. Hand in hand, dancing in the way of the dragon, heart of man still convinced it was
the way of the lamb, and I didn't realize that I had abandoned the path until I finally glanced
down at my own two feet
and had the thought that even wolves can learn to bleat like sheep.
Of course it's all selfish ambition and vain conceit. Of course I want you to raise your hands and
worship me. Of course notoriety became the centerpiece as my pride continues to believe itself to
be the praise of God.
Behind liturgy like a smoke screen we bow down to money and the powers that be and treat one
another like competing teams functioning hierarchically and calling the winnings gospel
(repeat). And Jesus, indeed, seems to read like a sword that cuts through the family (but he still
brings peace to the wealthy though). It's dismissible – I can simply close my eyes to the way that
salvation became so closely tied to domination like the way that
God became a literal Trump card.
So we joined the ranks of a disenfranchised generation. The counselor called it a combination of
coming of age and brainwashing that repeatedly capitulates itself to a posture of self-hate and
blame and spirals inward on its own cliche.
The naïveté is so easy to manipulate: you simply call power "blessing" and excommunicate
whomever stands in the way.
I’ve seen things just stay the same, man.
They’ll find a way in.
One day, men
Will use the Name’s insurance claim to get paid off of entertainment.
Don’t take even one of the layman,
Send a raven,
Now empty your savings,
Keep donating in payments to build this shelter in time of storm.
No one can clap back,
If Noah didn’t open them doors.
I guess you can have that, but…
Sow seed, proceed, Osteen
Both seen shelters before;
Ain’t that where the tax at?
A Garrett Morgan is more than just a metaphor
Of a black and a uniform to go to war with,
And a random fact that the black invented the gas mask.
I’ll bet that color matters to a bank account getting fatter
When it’s re(a)d to the black on the cash app
A hypocritical separation of church and the state
Look! His pastor’s posing with opposing politicians on Facebook
And I heard it’s getting worse,
Gotta put a curse in the verse,
They’ll get passed that
When they realize his worships working perfect to back that A$CAP
Growing up, the river and the mountain were a fountain of life for us. We knew how to play in
the water and how to rest in the shade and navigated the currents and recognized the way that the
face of the mountain smiled just like our fathers, and the song of the river sounded just like our
mothers', and the sunsets in the valley glowed just like our worldview, and the lightening had not
yet torn that world in two.
When I saw one of the sparrows fall I knew that when she hit the soil the earth would break like
our heart-quake until it could not be called that at all.
Of course the world is grey.
Of course the mountain is no longer a mountain and the rivers have turned to snakes.
I will never forget the way that her father writhed in the dirt the day that he wept over the grave
he made for his daughter after begging you to let her stay.
So where is the lullaby that our doctrine sang? Where is the house on the rock when even the
rock couldn't withstand the rain? What does it mean, you who uses spit to clean the eyes of blind
men suddenly guilty for all that they have claimed to see?
It's not that I don't believe. It's just that sometimes faith feels more like cataracts than clarity.
Go gentle on me.
In obscurity and silence and absurdity and violence the quiet reminded me that the surest sign I
don't understand is to be sure that I do. I knew more before I knew more. He said, "Just outside
the room, I watched her die for forty-five minutes while they tried to revive my child and when
she finally pulled through I thought of death and resurrection and how much I hated you."
I love you for it. You've been gone so long I've been raging at the night in all its emptiness, all its
nothingness, all its silent, darkened sky. I've been searching for the sadist who keeps taking his
sweet time to let us see, or let us leave, or let us move on with our lives. Now that you've finally
shown yourself again, I've got my fists raised high for the bliss it is to finally have a christ to
crucify (and then to kiss). You let me lose my mind and I loved you for letting me hate you, and I
barely recognize the lines the rivers make on the mountain face or the color of your eyes.
I thought that they were black and white. I thought I knew the creeks. I thought that they were
black and white. Keep forgiving.
Let god be wild. (Let me be free.)
I can't remember when you became a hypothetical. I still talk to the sky and the black backs of
my eyelids, but it's been some time since your son transitioned from person to proposition.
I keep conjuring his name up over my wife at night, like a seance. The ghost still calms her
nerves, so I keep praying while I wonder what I'll say when I run out of hat tricks and smoke
bombs. I keep disappearing behind the distractions. We both know how well I procrastinate, so
the night that I finally began to fear whether or not I'd lost my faith... I thought it was too late.
I wrote down the confession like a hook for a song: "When I stopped believing in God, I blamed
it on him, and thought, 'well, if this is what you want...'"
Heavenly Father, when the fathers tried to exorcise the demons from my father they simply
spoke back and begged for their medication, and I finally believed in the gift of tongues. I heard
him speak out in one legion of them while the comfortable line between oppression and
possession collapsed as disconcerting as your scribbles in the sand to a man who is still
cutting his teeth on forgiveness, unable to let go of the stones making their way through the
backs of his hands for all of the stubbornness in his grip and the way that even his fists fold back
in upon themselves.
I can't touch my toes to the mirage. If the ground is a foundation it is one evasive facade. I got
lost and the only way that I could talk to God was through profanity and absolutely nothing and
maybe that's what he was going for all along.
We're tired of floating. Tired of constantly examining motive. Tired of ascribing it. Tired of
acting like we know. It's exhausting – what if we don't? Tired of the circle. Tired of equating
confirmation with affirmation.
Applause is a poor god.
It's dark inside of my stomach, bent, shoving my head out the lower half of my back and
collapsing beneath the weight of what it all looks from here. I heard the fear, heard the fear,
heard the fear, know what fear and trembling looks like – we're working it out. Isn't that a part of
It's no joke.
Sometimes the bride slips out the back but sometimes the spirit flees.
Sometimes it's dissension and sometimes it's prophecy.
Sometimes it's good, old fashioned adultery, but if conquest is franchised as love for long
enough, then the latter becomes the trigger for your panic attack. I don't know how to get the
childlikeness back, and if salvation is contingent on a faith like that – where are the waterfalls?
Where's the boy down to backflip into the river? Maybe the current shifted, maybe the color's
and I recognize it because
For every conclusion posited as a question, resurrection haunts like a shadow I can't escape,
looming in what I could have sworn was warmth melting ice before whatever it became. I was a
son – I was a son – you told me that once, but it's amazing how petrified portions of the heart
start to see fingers like claws and water like poison and grace like the opposite flowing
indifferent through your lukewarm bloodstream, cooling and clotting and cutting branches from
Am I losing you? Have you lost me?
Is there such a thing?
Heavenly Father, I have no interest in selling doves for the market.
Flip the tables.
Braid the rope.
Taper the whip.
Let me speak.
Are we salesmen or sons? Are our positions contingent on commissions and brand loyalty?
I mistook kingdom for empire.
Salvation for rapture.
Grace for escape.
Mission for capture.
I mistook mercy for license.
Family for uniform.
Gift for owed.
Cross for sword.
Heavenly Father, it's all a shot across the bow and I'm aware that it's not fair to throw the whole
body out but can we scuff up the navel? Cut eyes with thrones umbilical as control as though we
forced ourselves from the womb?
Keep pushing me down. Keep forgiving.
New life is death and they call it that for a reason. The birth canal is filthy and beautiful. You'll
get out. I've never had more faith in that than now.
I know you don't recognize your reflection.
I know you'd have hated who you've become and I know you hate who you were so there's no
use in being anywhere other than present.
I know it's torture.
I know that you make it through.
I know that you don't believe it. I know that you don't have to.
I will. We will.
I know that
there are cancer and death and indifference acting out on the stage,
and playwrights monetizing god from the machine.
I know I made a crane of my own, I'm sorry.
I poured the concrete and deemed it determined from eternity past
as if that were
justification enough for
how harsh my love had become.
(There is a word for those who call evil good. For what it's worth, I've got a verse for that.)
I don’t know what to do with the inconsistencies beyond an apology,
cruciform certitude is easily abused,
and there’s no better shape for us to use as a scepter.
But a specter of truth – like a phantom limb – still itches in my memories
like a flash in a photo booth that leaves light afloat in its wake.
I don't know what to say.
"I don't know what to say."
"I've got nothing to say and no direction to give," and my friends said,
"that's perfect - tell it exactly how it is."
I don't know what to say.
But I still hear echoes that can only exist in empty places,
and whether they are hearts or tombs,
if the ghost that I all but gave up to his grave can leave it behind,
well, I am shaped exactly like the vacancy signs
advertising spaces that still need residence.
I thought that God could only exist in sonnets and villanelles,
but you should see their freeform.
I hope that my Jesus is bigger than all of my heresy, but before you agree,
I hope that yours is, too.
Maybe you and I could talk before we write one another off?
Maybe we could both be quiet.
Maybe we could decrease or maybe we could rally our likeminded and fight it.
Maybe we could broadcast our dissent.
Maybe it will hurt.
Maybe it will heal.
Maybe it with mar but
Maybe it will mend.
Maybe I don't have every answer I thought I did but, God,
Damn them, I still have You.
keep forgiving. when all is not what you thought it was. when the lynch mob pulls back the
curtain on all that is ferocious and majestical,
well we are each of us small men to varying degrees, projecting the great and powerful oz with
booming voices so much louder than we are confident.
keep forgiving. when you hate what you loved. i don’t want to be a pendulum swinging from one
ivory tower to another. not everyone is competition. i pray for you on the days that i pray for my
enemies (the same days that i pray for myself). life tends to beat the binaries out of you.
it’s healthy when you and I become we, but we’ve got to
if you write for everybody, you write for no one. so i write for my friends. i’ve
watched all of them grope for understanding like a pipe dream. heard everything they’ve said
through eyes watering, wondering if God really hates them as much as they think he does in the
deafening, inarticulable silence. their lips are all sealed the same not because they have nothing
to say but because none of them know how to say it and neither do i. maybe you can relate.
keep forgiving. that goes for yourself as much as anyone.
keep forgiving. when pledged allegiances poison the body, and civil war breaks out between
limbs and you tuck your children into bed at night remembering the way you treated their
mother as somehow less than, though you are the offspring of yours without the power to
multiply and you would not be here without her, and neither would they. perspective,
perspective. and the last shall be first and she deserves every trophy for being your trophy for so
keep forgiving me. this goes both ways, with fingers for pistols firing indictments and blame at
celebrities as machines i made, the bullets - sometimes - stand to temporarily tame the
bitterness, but it’s still self-medicated anger, and the gun shot residue only fans the flames. i’ve
heard you say that fostering the festering pain is a match struck in the forest, and the faintest
whisper: enough of a gust to set it ablaze.
keep forgiving. did it set your skin on fire as a boy trying to reconcile how a father could hurt
you like that? i used the past like funeral pyre thinking i could burn it away (and tie you to the
stake while i’m at it). i wanted to be the broken link in the chain, but when i set the torch to
timber, it was i who found myself burning from the inside out, and i see how hell is as here and
now as anywhere else.
keep forgiving. have pity. is there a drop of water for my tongue? i used scissors to fork it and
spoke blood, spoke blood and tinctured the saliva to serve on a sponge. called it
compassion. called it death by love. well, no wonder we’re so hellbent on hanging someone.
keep forgiving. when the disconnect seems to beat the poetry out of you, and the joy isn’t quite
there but you can’t quite remember where or why it went, and the lenses protecting your vision
continue to cloud and spread reflecting eyes as opaque as the dimly lit mirror they’re doubling up
on just for the hell of it – well it was never just for the hell of it, but who really believes that in
the midst of the dispersion, or setting a broken bone? the bloodletting felt like murder, but you
had to get the poison out of me.
keep forgiving. when we come brandishing swords for the ears of those who spoke to what they
should have given over to silence. when i steal the right to vengeance. when i think that i am
justified in my anger like holding onto it is doing something other than picking at wounds that i
don’t have the scope to see as a cell block - solitarily confined with the pus at neck level.
keep forgiving. when the memories of what was threaten to shut your heart down, and the
laughter you can still hear from the mouths of friends who are no longer around make you wish
that you could change the channel. if you write for everybody, you write for no one, so this will
be for you.
keep forgiving as forgiven. as every pointer finger bent backwards and broken like the moment
all of my indictments return to me, and the bullets ricochet straight back in on my gunsights…
well this is a small lens from which to view the world.
keep forgiving as forgiven. we don’t always get to wear the white hat. pardon is not always
preceded by repentance. in fact, i think it’s exactly the opposite. if it were not for love, i would
have never come back.
keep forgiving. you can’t unsee what you’ve seen, but the world is colorful, ferocious and
majestic without small men or straw men or me to blow smoke and mirrors from our machinery.
the toggle switch is reductionistic. let the pin go. decrease.
hate is a prison.
keep forgiving me.
i’ve told my stories, but they’re yours.
you may never get your apology. on the day you do, it may not mean a thing.
No matter how small a spec we are – floating in some empty living room – you are still a world to me, and I will expect to see you at peace with the debris that I return to in your afternoons, like the glimmer of old stars – no matter how dead they are – knowing that each and every piece was once a prelude to our eternal somethings who already knew the news. Anything could happen with the right set of lungs breathing into this room.
Levi's second EP was pressed to limited edition 10" vinyl, features Eisley's Elle Puckett, and includes two songs written by Andy Othling of Lowercase Noises, and remixed by Glowhouse's Alex Sugg.
I got lost, and the only way that I could talk to God was through your songs.
I used to sing in tune.
When I was a child, I prayed, and he felt like new wine fermenting inside of old age. I know that might not make sense, but he was a decade removed from all of his accomplishments, and he still had the eyes of a dreamer, and no one worshipped him as a demigod.
I used to throw stones at his bedroom window, back before he threw stones at me.
He’d climb out like clockwork after his parents had gone to sleep, and we’d sneak to the meadow up the street from their house in the mountains just east of the city. I loved it there. It was far enough away that the glow didn’t bleed into the show. He was so full of awe. We'd play connect the dots and make up constellations. I was wishing for the stars, but he’d lie down and look up and stare into the empty black between them until all the suns in his periphery blurred into one and he’d close them so tight to hold on to the spectrum and whisper, “I knew there was something more than black and white out there."
Don’t leave me.
I know exactly how a window screen sounds popped out from its hinges. I used to be the one you snuck out for. When we were younger I used to wonder what I’d do if I ever heard the bedsprings blend into the creaking of the frame bending blending into feet against the stucco, searching for the ground, and now I know.
It happened in slow motion and I swear the second hand never made it a moment past my eyes closing before I heard our love collapse like lungs, guzzling up the ocean, salt soaking up everybody's condolences hoping / still willing to invite you back home and
and now I dream of the nights that you used to talk about fire and color and wonder if God is as real as the sunspots that you saw in his absence. I tried taping my eyelids shut to see him like you used to. I tried cutting my eyelids off to see him like I used to. I stitched the skin to skin to salvage whatever was left and then searched the sky for signs of life like there wasn't blood blurring into the vision.
Is freedom abandonment? Is that why you abandoned me? Is freedom forgetfulness? I forget, I can't stop remembering when we were young, and you stayed, and you felt like old faith casked and too mature for your age. And I know it doesn't make sense, but he was a decade away from all of his accomplishments, and he still had the heart of a son, and no one worshipped him in the place of one.
Will I ever be able to sing in your choir?
I can't hit the notes.
I can't hit the notes.
All I wanted was to sing in your choir.
I used to sing in tune.
I threw up my prayers like incantations.
I'd give anything to see the sky one last time.
The sun had just begun to come through the windows when the phone rang, and time slowed the way that dust hangs in his rays when the room is still enough for you to see it. I always loved watching those fragments of old stars, memories of explosions that float in the air like both a foreshadowing and an embrace as warm as autumn, saying,
“You’ll make it through. After your heart can no longer stomach the torture, or the way the pain always expands to a weight that collapses on itself when gravity betrays the attraction of youth for the undress of age, you’ll be able to breathe again.”
The thing is, there’s no bridge for bypassing crucifixion.
Down the hallway, every ringing scream beat the truth in, and the rotary dial shook on its axis like my pale blue dot spun out of control and exposed as no less broken than the same motes of hope that spoke from their silence like prophecy.
“Ma’am, are you sitting down?”
I thought about life and man and assembly and my ribcage and sleep and watched the spotlight move upward with the sun descending and all of the particles that we weren’t made of maddeningly understanding like they were right about the news, and taunting like anything could happen with the right set of lungs breathing into this room.
I sat in the quiet imagining you heard the same sound despite how loud your mind always was.
What ifs are deafening questions.
The sun had just begun to come through the windshield when my whole field of vision became a prism system, and in the flash as long as a life sentence before my eyes, I had hope that, maybe, you would come to remember me as fascinating as every star - once monochromatic as ours - whose death gave birth to memories as colorful as this spectrum. It shone as if to say,
“She’ll forgive you. After searching the night and every dust cloud in her telescope or the empty rooms in your home, and collapsing into your scent like the moments you’d come in late with the night’s chill still clinging to the leather jacket she used to latch onto like one day she might not be able to feel you beneath it, she’ll be able to love again.”
The thing is, there’s no bridge for bypassing crucifixion.
Down the hallway, the phone sang its pitch as loud as our collision, and the car flipped like a pale blue top spun beyond the reach of its sunbeam suspended in time, like if its relative then i’ve got enough to get this out:
“My love, are you sitting down?
No matter how small a spec we are – floating in some empty living room – you are still a world to me, and I will expect to see you at peace with the debris that I return to in your afternoons, like the glimmer of old stars – no matter how dead they are – knowing that each and every piece was once a prelude to our eternal somethings who already knew the news. Anything could happen with the right set of lungs breathing into this room.
What ifs are deafening questions.
She'll learn to love again.
The word sanctuary means "a place of refuge or safety." It's a word that has fascinated me for years. A word I've spoken in poems past and written into countless others never released to the public.
At the beginning of 2017, for better or worse, I sought sanctuary of my own in cities whose pride was built upon offering exactly that to whomever found themselves inside their walls. The story is long. But there are glimpses within this song – a piece that grew from soil tilled with the pain of searching and the joy of those glimpses of freedom that come from walking alone along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California or the streets of Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington.
in something like a passing conversation, as
that seems to be all that we can have nowadays (and
you seem to have lost your voice
and i seem to have lost my patience
waiting on a whisper or a fire
or an earthquake
or a hurricane), i
hid myself in the cleft of northwest sanctuary cities
searching memories for rest,
for new testaments to reminiscent
projections of presuppositions
i had about you when i left.
ode to the great iconoclast,
you finally spoke through the cracks in tarmac,
"you won't find me in doubling back," you said,
"i am not done with you yet.”
and how do you teach a blind man to dance?
there is salt in these wounds, granules like pillars of pasts,
loves lost and lots cast for backward glances,
i fell for romancing the ashes and calling the cinders beauty.
when i could still see, i couldn’t believe the way that i’d backlead
slowly advance until i had highjacked every step,
i didn’t feel my hand lose grips with your left,
suddenly i wasn’t leaning back into your right,
and i constantly describe the actions
in the passive tense as if they all happened
i knew there was dark.
i knew you were light, but
i had no idea that the white is a spectrum combined.
and iron doesn’t cease
to sharpen iron just because it sparks
a tone you don’t recognize in your tribe.
i spent 3 weeks searching the skylines
hoping i'd find the words that could free my mind.
clenched teeth, never realizing
idealizing the past is not a ticket back in time.
i mean, i keep on advertising
a line of ascent a decade sanctified...
i've been afraid to go forward with you so deeply engrained
in my image (as if you could be contained) that when i'd pray,
it was only to the idea of your name
(and it sounded so much like mine).
in something like a passing altercation that
seems to be all i can manage nowadays (and
i seem to have lost my voice
and you seem to have remained patient,
waiting on a forfeit or a dime,
or a white flag,
or a heartbreak), i
laid awake in the bed of northwest sanctuary cities
praying "god, give me rest,
these old testaments are expensive
perceptions and presuppositions
that i can no longer profess."
ode to the great iconoclast,
i finally noticed the lack in the flashback.
"you won't know me in zeros and ones and fact,
i am not through with you yet."
and how do you teach a lame man to dance?
there is pride in these wounds: i've memorized every step,
fall away and promenade and sway and
fell for equating a passing grade on a test with taking your hand.
this speck is a beam, and i can't lean on my own understanding
as a means to the same ending as suffering is.
i suffocated at the tree of knowledge,
i broke both my legs at the root of good and evil.
and if i'm to wonder beyond wondering
where the wonder went again i'm convinced
it will be in the mystery.
i've spent my life clutching fists so tight
trying to control a future i can't define.
i've kept clenched teeth, never realizing
idealizing the past is not a ticket back in time.
i mean, i keep almost abiding
in the present time like i believe it's true,
i mean, i keep almost believing
in being led into the dance with you.
I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that I'd love to sit with you through it all over a cup of coffee - no matter how it tastes - or over a beer, or over a damn lemon and ginger wellness shot if that's your thing. The people who have done the same for me have been miracles and hands and feet like a savior knew what he was doing when he gave us one another...
i just had the most godawful cup of coffee
i’ve ever had in my life.
you’ve got to try it.
i drank it at a local diner
charging specialty prices
like they didn't buy it from Costco three weeks ago
in bulk, "New 3 lb. Size!" Folger's tubs
– not cans, tubs –
plastic versions of the ones
my great-grandfather used to spit in
when I was a kid,
boasting "Mountain Grown Quality since 1850,"
his: half full of saliva and cancer
whose threats amounted to little more than
when dementia beat his gums to the punch.
look – eventually –
we're all going to have to leave.
but slow down, stay a while.
let's not force it.
gg used to shuffle down the hallway
through shag carpet that
covered the house with tentacles,
or a twelve-hundred square foot trampoline.
like jesus (the only name he never used in vain)
gliding over storms to take his friend's hand,
the old man would float around the corner and
high-five the grandkids
with a thin-lipped grin like,
"child, you have no idea what life is."
i want to find out.
we had to jump
to reach his hand,
and the smack of our skin sounded
like a pop-tab cracking
into the morning Budweiser he'd drink
as religiously as you'd sip a cup of coffee
at 7 am.
he's all beautiful and
weathered and leather-skinned like maybe
gutting so much of that dip throughout the years
finally began challenging just how much
a body can tolerate before it starts to break down.
i know you ask yourself the same question all of the time.
spit it out.
you're still here.
i'm still here.
and still may be as much of a miracle as
here ever was in the first place,
so let's not waste it.
we're still here to make a memory, today,
trying to cover up the taste
with cinnamon and mocha powder –
neither of which quite get the burn out –
but we know how that goes:
you've got enough experience with people
trying to tame solar flares with band aids to know that
onto the scars
on your arms
will not be enough to convince someone that life is beautiful,
but perhaps the wonder of another human being
actually subjecting himself to drink this
for the sake of being in your presence will.
anyway, i'll tell you all about him if you want,
but this cup of coffee:
god, it's horrible! – you've got to try it.
i want to hear about your family.
tell me about your great-grandfather
and how he got through the Great Depression
and tell me how you'll get through yours.
this moment is a part of it.
i want to high-five my son's son wearing whatever vintage is 65 years from now,
with beauty and pain and wonder and presence written into the
fault lines all over my face like,
"i have made my mistakes and
but they shape you
and the ravines created
are gorgeous places to
let the sun cast its shadows through."
we can hold one another's hand in the process.
i'll let you squeeze until mine breaks if you must,
but don't let go.
tell me about the love of your life
and what color her eyes are,
and whether the tint seems to change
depending upon what she's wearing that day.
my wife's fluctuate between
i know you need ears to hear that kind of thing and
i know that those kinds of ears are miracles.
i know it's not as simple as being committed
to either life or death
but i know that there is still breath
in both of our lungs so while there's still time
to say it:
stay for the wedding.
i swear the first glimpse of her
rounding the corner like a dream
transforms you into nothing and everything
all at the same time.
stay for the reception.
for toasts from friends
whose lives are better off with you
to subject themselves to the small deaths
that all of us experience
when we have to forego our jealousy
and let the lover in.
stay for the wedding night.
like the dichotomies you are
and always have been
stay for the fights.
they're devastating and necessary and
if you're able to temper the moment then
i will be the lightening rod you'll need to strike
over a cup of bad, overpriced diner coffee
at 4 a.m.
when the couch springs
are stabbing you in the back,
or simply stabbing you back.
i won't say a word unless you want me to.
stay for forgiveness in the morning,
after the sun has gone down on your anger,
or your sadness,
or your wanton abandon,
and mercy still finds
you when he peeks his head
over the mountains to the east.
stay for every memory
we'll embellish around the dinner table
until it becomes legend –
not quite the way it happened
but certainly not a lie –
memorialized and floral,
the way that fiction gets at truths like laughter
when we tell the stories year after year,
and they grow and we're all sure that,
"yes, as a matter of fact,
it did rain literal cats and dogs
during our darkest nights"
and we thought god was gory
but they're all grace now and life is movement
and we are healing and breaking
and making and being made
all of the time.
this coffee tastes like the bad action movies
that my dad used to love.
i imagine him –
whose absence i feel
every time DC introduces another Clark Kent
who will never quite be Christopher Reeves –
gulping this mud down
and calling it something absurd like,
had he accepted the invitation.
like the way i loved to help him
light the pilot
beneath the hot water heater
in the house we grew up in.
she needs you.
he needs you.
they need you.
we need you.
i need you.
find what you were made for.
i just had the most godawful cup of coffee
i’ve ever had in my life,
you've got to try it.
it's all worth living for.
it tastes like a morning liturgy,
and my great-grandfather's high fives.
don't forget that there are voices on the outside of your head, too,
and they sound like
carrying the love that you told me about through the front door of your first home together
camping with your friends making you to eat the worm at the bottom of some mezcal bottle that you didn't care for
hiking the Blue Trail through coastal towns in Northern Italy and stopping for bread and wine that costs less than water
tucking your daughter into bed at night the first time she moves out of your room and into her big girl bed
replacing light bulbs in the bathroom
the promotion you've been working toward
being let go
holding your friends close when they're breaking into pieces
friends holding you close when you're breaking into pieces
atrocious cups of coffee and everything that we have to tell one another about where we came from and where we want to go
all of the help needed to get there
I just drank the most godawful cup of coffee I've ever had in my life...
do you want to try it?
It has become crippling. It constricts my body. It feels like paralysis. Like life plateauing. The mornings grow more difficult to wake up to. I dread them for the way they allow for a few seconds’ worth of stillness—like heaven—before my body realizes it is awake, and the air itself forms hands that push down so hard into my chest that I think I’ll fold in two...
and knowing how i’d shake sometimes,
he asked if i could help explain his wife’s anxiety,
saying every time he tried to be her sounding board,
he – in his lack of understanding –
became more an object of envy
while simultaneously reflecting her own disdain for
the stranger she found herself exchanged for in his chest like a mirror where –
for some reason –
the love behind it beat at regular intervals and normal patterns,
and only skipped when, and i quote, “she’d beat electric fists into me,
like defibrillating a healthy heart while she was under arrest.”
and she begged him to understand but – and i quote – “i can’t”
and knowing how she’d shake sometimes,
and try to communicate through stutters when the cogs in her mind jammed
and caught the wheel of another thought vying for her attention,
i – oh almighty i –
became more a silver lining
combined with a witch available to burn depending upon the outcome,
like maybe my tongue could breed magic that douses the fires,
and i quote, “staked between us.
they are high.”
(and i surmised, “and getting higher.”)
maybe i’ll light the match myself.
i thought of my own wife and wondered if either of them knew
what they’d gotten themselves into
when they got into it
"the shame compounds upon itself when all that i’ve begun to call ‘god’s platitudes’ don’t help and the shaking has given way to anger i can’t maintain, or a panic I can’t suppress as a fuse (whose length you can probably guess) constantly rubbing up against "strike anywhere matches," otherwise known as people.
flint so nonconsensual in the flame created by the iron i like to think of myself as that they find themselves at a complete loss for how they ever got so tangled up in the tinder i actually am.
the ones in closest and most consistent proximity light the fastest and burn the hottest and as long as i continue to describe them as the spark that is always setting fire to my rope then i can remain the victim.
alternatively, you will never cease to hear my omnipotence positioned in the phrase:
'oh, so it’s my fault, again?'
and in this way, i can make certain i am the first and the last, the beginning and the end,
so omniscient in every conversation that i can feel myself slipping away while i speak,
insisting that i am in my right mind.
is this making sense so far?
we don’t know who we are in here.
i understand that history only celebrates martyrdom for the ones
who didn’t make a spectacle of lighting themselves on fire.
she doesn’t want your sentiments.
we do not enjoy personifying the void any more than you want to be swallowed up by us
as black holes absorbing all of the light that you fell in love with when our stars were still exploding.
of course we envy the calm that emanates from the way you are able to choose which candy bar you’d like to purchase at the gas station.
of course we’re angry when you ask, “i don’t know, what would you like to share?”
as if we have any idea.
and if i’m already shaking because i can’t make a decision
between Reese’s Pieces
then how am i ever supposed to go fearless into our future
with every infinite possibility
lingering with chalkboard nails inside my head?
just pick a candy bar.”
if i could just get it out we might set one another free,
still – for some reason completely unbeknownst to me – firm in my belief
that the greatest gifts have been
beadlets of empathy sweat out as
pores drained of their blood
when the time has come to kiss in this garden,
and whether it is for passion or betrayal or both
beneath the dichotomy between words separated by and
“you are not floating alone in this awful void” (<-- click to tweet this)
seems to retain its standing as the surefire echo of
i couldn’t get out a whisper.
the only thing i managed to do was shake,
but somehow, i think it was enough.
instead of burning the witch,
he looked at me as if to say, “i’ve seen that paralysis before."
mouth open as an echo chamber,
i guess that i was just empty enough for him to hear it.
I always wanted Correspondence to be a story that pointed beyond itself. Songs that exist beyond the context of the story. If you happen to be a video maker, live performer, commercial somebody, etc. interested in integrating this story into yours, you can contact Levi for licensing information, here.
Correspondence has been licensed by many people and corporations, including: Beats By Dre, New Balance, Airbnb and Universal.
The word “story” is redundant and junk-drawerish like the rest of meaningful things lost in repetition or manipulation, but I still consider myself an advocate for working to tell a better one. The majority of what I hear in poetry is pregnant with good intentions, but fails to deliver. People aren't inviting others into a story that they can resonate or sympathize with, as much as they are trying to beat an agenda into their audience’s head with rhyming one-liners and truth statements.
Correspondence (a fiction) is Levi The Poet's fourth studio album, but it was the beginning of a whole new story: artistically for him, conceptually for you, and literally for the fiction's characters...
A tale of Beginnings, and of New Beginnings. Letters - Correspondence - between young lovers, separated by the sea. The Girl, a whaler's daughter, drifting at the whims of her ship's captain. The Boy, and orphan, hand to the plow and building a tree house for her return. For their home. It is their history. It is their future. Who knows... maybe you'll find your own [non]fiction in theirs.
My love, when we first set sail and pushed off to sea, I stood at the bow looking backward, dry-eyed and imagining that the world, in all its color, grandeur and majesty, had been devastated by the same sort of flood I'd seen when I told you that my father was making me leave.
It was a midsummer night's eve, and in my heart, it was a romance. That same Shakespearean tragedy. That quintessential teenage flickering that let love burn brighter in the reminiscent memories as we slowly fell asleep, cuddling beneath the stars that I wished upon through the cutout at the top of the teepee (that doubled as an indian fort with "girls have cooties" stitched across the seams, and at night, our secret love affair that the cowboys would have deemed a crime punishable by cap gun and sour faces and wild, wild west make-believe).
Old enough to comprehend but young enough to dream.
I can still hear the rhythm of your breathing beneath that canopy, while the wind played brush on the snare and god threw his bolts of lightening, like the thunder clapped clave to compliment the whistling moving through the trees, and remembered promising that when we grew up, you'd build a home for me.
Now to start growing.
And you'd twist up your fake mustache like your favorite character in your favorite movie, and whisper, "I'll be your huckleberry."
And in the early morning when I snuck back to my room I thought, "Tragedy, indeed" - that innocence, if it ever was, can be stripped away without a warning.
My king, by grace or by fate or by luck or by mercy, I trust the moon will carry your letters safely to me. This flood, rescinding, will give way to land, depending, and like the hand of God gave olive leaves to encourage that ancient family...
My dove, with love and sincerity and all that I have to offer,
My everything, I found your letter inside of a bottle, and didn't know what to say. It was broken further down the cove, ink spilt hallowed but such a shallow grave, read your poem like it was life in itself, starved for hope like the waters were too hard to navigate, but it figures that if I was going to build us a home, well then your heart would find its way.
It smelt of sea salt and your father's favorite poison. I'll never forget that day.
College-ruled lines clouded by the liquor, like a water-color painting that had absorbed the spectrum with blue, and hues thereof (or like a piece of bread to absorb the damage). That bottle of Seagrams shattered against a seashell and rewrote the story that it would tell to any little girl who might pick up that whitewashed tomb, expecting to hear the ocean, listening for the crescendo and the crash, when at last, she'll hear the echoes of your whispers:
"These bottles will carry my heart home, and the currents will be kind, and my lover's letters will return to me, and our children will grow to find that all is not for naught, and though all is not yet healed, their parents, they worked hard for it, and the storms honored their appeals to see that though my father's drowning, his bottles float above the waves, and though I used to dread the water, its waves will be faithful to crash every day (until at last, I see your face)."
Things aren't the same.
I've been picking up splinters of lumber for the floorboards and wondering about all our splintered promises, like even though we didn't have control over their breaking, oaths like those don't account for much.
I loved the beach for the way the breath of God rose out of the deep, and I hated the sand but I'd tolerate it to hold your hand and watch the sun sink into the sea, feet buried just beneath the surface, molten love buried just beneath the surface, erupting, volcanic, unable to keep beneath the surface that broke like our parents' dormant, surface-level crater of a marriage that looks more like a coffin every time I read the note that I stole out of my father's casket before it closed. He wrote it about my mother. A woman I never met, but it made me feel like I knew her, and this is what it said:
Dear Diary, Grandfather's creaky as his front porch, loads his shotgun beneath the awning, spittoon restless for rain, carpenter's chair against the whistling air. Rocking, back and forth, rocking snap shot picture - worth it, just like the movies.
She said that he loved baseball, and James Earl Jones; said that he's got god talking inside of his thoughts while he's rounding those bases on his way back home.
If you build it, they will come (and baby listens to what the Lord say). But I've been getting pretty worn, building for nearly a decade.
In a perfect world we shouldn’t have been allowed to lose sight of what it means to love wholly. I’ve got a Polaroid hanging on my wall that a friend took of me and my angel. I remember the day like it’s something I can touch, but it’s stuck in the square between the borders of the film, and I can run my fingers over our faces, but I can’t get back to the places we were.
"You’ve got a pain deep in your bones, son. It compels you forward like you’re tied to a slave master’s cruel hand, and it's the same pain that drives that oppressor’s heart of stone, so you’ve grown to love the man. You keep pouring yourself out, again and again, into legible lines through a crooked pen." Yeah, it’s painful, but it’s familiar – so habit breeds comfort, and I don’t know what I’d do without him.
So in the early morning, when you’ve fallen asleep in our home, I drift back into the memories that I’ve claimed as my own, and wonder if tonight will be a night I’ll hang on my wall like I did before we stopped taking photos, out of the habit of being comfortable with not trying at all.
In a perfect world, we’ll have albums labeled Seasons, with chapter headings, and we’ll staple them to the cork-board that hangs at the foot of the bed. There’s longevity in a memory spilt out in pen, and if a picture is worth a thousand words then I’ve written down every one of them.
I work hard, scarred, toil through that soil for the youth I see in my friends, but these journals are moments in time, snapshots of our lives, and in retrospect, age is an overexposed photo that the memories can't mend.
I know my sweet seductress, and her name is Depression. I wrote best beneath that demon’s destructive oppression.
In those Polaroids, she drove the ink into the canvas like a slave beneath his master’s cruel hand, and I hated that whip but always wondered what I’d do without it, so I grew to love the man.
Oh, I wept for change! I begged for movement and the good Lord, he answered my prayers, but you don’t know how to breathe easy when you let go of your habits, even if your comforts left you gasping for air.
Grandfather's as creaky as his front porch, scent like oil in the gun barrel, dip-can kicked over the railing, sandpaper hands stuck behind thumb tacks on my wall. I’ve got an ache in my chest for every season I miss and it gets worse when the snow starts to fall. There are butterflies alive in that couple’s eyes a few years since forgotten by all, and sometimes, if the phone starts to ring, I can still hear their wings when you call.
But I begged for movement and I got what I asked for, and I can picture the answer like it came yesterday. And in the land of the gods, I think that things are timeless, but we are still prone to decay.
You know I still lift up hope of certain smiles in those photos for us when I pray.
Time is a cruel lover, and she breaks her house apart at its bones. You know comfort is no good reason for standing still, and idle hands build nothing that you can call your own.
God, when the sun sets (or escapes), well there is a painter that paints and when he paints we just take in the ripples the paints make when they swell against the textures on the page, and name them "waves." Back home, my other spends his nights all alone, and thinks, "it's all about perspective and taking my thoughts captive."
He'd be captivated by it.
It's all counterfeit. It's all functional saviors that don't function or save you. It's all identity drift. It's all grandiose promises exposed as illegitimate.
It is the whale my father seeks and swears by like it will bring unity to our family. It's the way my mother drove away the same day that she drove the man to drink, and called it "killing two birds with one stone" (or three, if you count me).
I was a seed. She used to say that I was the only beautiful thing that ever blossomed from her branches, but I guess I wasn't quite beautiful enough to keep. The gun was cocked and loaded years before I ever watched her leave, but we always saw her finger on the trigger, trembling.
I have heard tales of lovers broken by the bullets we call our parents.
In 50 B.C., Parthenius of Nicaea penned a Uranian lover into Narcissus' story, who gutted himself with a sword on the man's doorstep.
In 8 A.D., Ovid found Echo in a mountain crevice, rejected and lonely, until only faint shivers of her whispers remained.
(To me, this far removed, they are as clear as the day).
With that nymph's voice in my head here in Poseidon's domain, for all of the fury with which Aminius and that pagan deity prayed, for all of the fiction children believe and by which we are betrayed, and despite the wind constantly driving and tossing the waves, in all my double-mindedness, I still hear the refrain:
"This is not your story."
When I watch my dad walk starboard, I picture a pirate walking the plank, looking down into the water, terrified, only to see his reflection and fall so madly in love that he dives headfirst into himself and becomes all that I argued with those echoes about what he deserved to be.
I picture Nemesis like a John Wayne movie. I know you always loved True Grit, but at the end of the script, Mattie still doesn't have her daddy back. I hope that, one day, we'll be able to forgive, but until then, maybe presence is greater than answers, or revenge. If Zeus cast my mother out to Hades, she'd still be just as gone as she is now. If you sent ghosts to tell me all of the reasons why I still can't sleep at night, I'd be wide awake, listening.
If you can hear me, I'd rather have you than all of my answers.
My love, while you were weighing anchor, I was weighing my options, thinking, why? like knowing would satisfy. But if love is true, then the tide will carry mine to… You know I'd drown in the undercurrent before I let myself lose our happy ending.
It's the future I miss the most.
Seventeen years from now, I want to be younger, and as carefree as I can be. I want you next to me and I want you to reflect all of the best of me. I want the fairy tale, parenthetical porch swing, metaphorically morphing our distorted upbringing into enough of a string to hang by to believe it can be redeemed.
I was a man before I got the chance to be a boy. Mother said she wanted neither, father said I was his joy. He kept on saying things like, "enjoy your youth while you can," but when the cancer started taking it's toll, the roles reversed, and I cannot fathom what it is like to be eaten alive. Said he had ants beneath his skin, but even then, he'd tell it in a bedtime story:
"Son, there are colonies of Englishmen with marching orders to see to it that the Indians become just like them, dressed up in distinguished garb to cover up their colors and civilize them. Well," he said, "in a similar sense, I've got tuxedo-black blood cells clothing those that bleed red. If you can laugh along with me, the irony is that I'll be better dressed than I've ever been when I lie to rest here in bed."
And you wondered why that Indian fort was the one left standing. I made sure that the natives won every time we'd play that game. Man, I had mud clods filled with rocks that I'd launch at the backs of those backstabbers. (But admittedly, as you can imagine, it was a short-lived fame - what with all of my neighborhood friends bleeding from their heads and everything).
"Life is pain, highness, anyone who tells you different is selling something." Ah, it's not true. The Dread Pirate Roberts may have been awesome, but that kind of theology is a hell of a downer to subscribe to.
I know there's beauty out there. I'm sure you see it on the ocean, even if the crew has started to look as white as that whale they're chasing. I've been reading through Moby Dick - seven hundred pages of Old English and rhetoric and I can't really understand all of it, but Captain Ahab's looking pretty pale.
Be careful. I've been building our treehouse. I hid it far enough away so that when we run, we can stay, and I wrote out the location like a secret on a treasure map. However long your voyage, you'll have a place to call home when you come back. The ladder is nailed to the trunk and I started hammering the foundation to be sure that we have something to build our future on.
How I long for the day that I get to see your face,
my strength, my hope, my song.
12 months ago today, we stood in silence fading further and further away and refused to say "goodbye" for fear that the farewell might solidify our fate. I've knocked on every inch of this wooden vessel to keep that fear from coming true.
"Goodbye" is such a definite word.
An infinite word.
An intimate word.
Well in case you hadn't heard, there are no waterfalls at the edge of the world that fall off into eternity.
I'm bringing home scrimshaw to hang from the walls, or the branches, or the balcony. Father gave me two teeth from the beast they harpooned last week, and they've been flensing the creatures at dock, while I've been trying to get my feet steady underneath these sea legs.
I had a week or more to explore those foreign shores while the crew and the captain knocked at every brothel door, and I imagine I've got scores of siblings on this island, considering the captain is an island unto himself.
Give it time. There are a thousand orphans forgiving their fathers seventy times seven times, and I met one of them that week who became a friend of mine. He reminded me of you. Don't be jealous, he wasn't quite as cute, and he didn't have a feathered headdress or the tomahawk that you've been using to build my shelter. God knows I'm going to need it:
But we followed a road out to the country that he said he'd known about for years, and claimed it was haunted. Boys always tell those tales when they want to put their arms around you.
Monster films were made for men on first dates.
Well, I went along. The landscape stood frigid, frost painted and I contemplated the warm blanket that you would have been in all that cold. I saw ghosts every time I opened my mouth to breathe in and out and pretended it was smoke, like the bubble-gum cigarettes that we used to get from the corner store before it died with your dad, and acted like they were opiates before the buffalo dance.
The fog was like poetry: difficult to define but I am completely indifferent to what it means so long as we are able to get lost in it.
The boy and I met a mystic at the top of the mountain. The mist cut her straight in two, layers over her legs to keep the cold from coming through, but belly up, half a sundress, and she looked at us and said, "Get your head out of the clouds." So with the sun shining down, I've been thinking about what she meant.
She gave a speech about separating herself and related it to the whales. Said, "when the seamen dig their talons in to empty them and burn their substance for oil, remember they had to separate to find their true worth." And with the white dividing her skeleton frame, like a personified worldview, it was the cloudiest case for dualism that I have ever heard of. She told us her feet were evil because they'd touched the ground, ears guilty by association because they'd heard the sound, with a mind, wicked, that wandered and wondered about music, sex, love and the men in the town below.
"I don't know.
I don't know."
She sounds like my grandparents trying to distinguish between antique Negro Spirituals, done damned to hell for a pagan drumbeat and unholy...
I just hope that if we're a true reflection of some magnanimous Other, I won't have to assume that every inherent longing will find me buried alive. You'd think that if God created everything good, she wouldn't stand up on a mountain proclaiming inanimate objects bad and demonizing the rest of creation like it's the tempo's fault that she's stuck alone on a pedestal, cutting herself in half.
I want to dance to the music, drink wine to the melody, make love in our treehouse and rejoice over our son with laughter, someday. That's got to come from somewhere. It makes me feel alive.
She was kind but I declined to follow in her footsteps, and kissed the boy on the cheek to, you know, stick it to the man - so to speak.
We left for the great unknown first thing this morning, and if I am going to die at sea, then I am going to be as holistically human as I possibly can be, and believe that I am that way for a reason.
When I sit on the pier and wait for that black abyss to swell and spit out your letters, my heart rises and falls with the water, and sometimes, I just wish it would swallow me. Heaven: the expanse above the tide rising and beneath the rain falling. I swear sometimes breathing feels just like drowning, stuck here in between.
But when your bottles float in, there is nothing as beautiful as their dim glow, and my heart longs after them. Their colors catch my eye, dank bourbon or molded green protecting white sheets painted with calligraphic handwriting, tainted with damp expressions of the bottle's history, but purely you... Purely you.
I've been thinking about just what "beauty" is, but no amount of thinking has added beauty to it.
All I know is that it points beyond itself, like I long beyond your love notes, like I long for you.
I've seen the entire spectrum refracting off the ripples beneath my bare feet from the edge of this weathered dock, and thought God, there's got to be more than this.
I have no idea what to believe, but beauty pulls me beyond myself like I don't even have a choice, so I know I don't believe in nothing.
Where, my love, does the beauty inside of a tree reside, made up of atoms, identical and colorless, where the light of the sun merely vibrates in waves toward our eyes, striking tissues and moving along nerves like a telephone wire, to their endings, like telephones? I do not know. There is no actual color in the atoms of which the tree is composed, or in those vibrations. Shape, size, color, touch and the like are simply the names we call our sensations, and no amount of study can ever bring the notion of beauty to the tree...
When I don't know how, help me embrace the mystery.
Will you come home? This tree house won't be that without you.
Today, the first mate told me that my men intend a mutiny, and that I have condemned an entire crew in search of a fabled leviathan that we would not have known what do to with had he existed in the first place.
"But we're sinking," he said, "and your daughter is in love with a boy back home, dreaming that she is living his life. She's asleep in the cabin, and if you have even a hint of sobriety in-between gulps from the last buoy she'll use to say goodbye, you'll turn this ship around."
It's too late. We're drowning.
Fathers of daughters just like mine, except theirs will live out their lives on land long after their daddies have died at sea. Some will remember them as noble men, the rest as having abandoned their roles for a pipe dream, all as good or godawful as their imaginations allow themselves to believe.
I do not know whether I care, or if I could not possibly care less.
When we first set sail and pushed off to sea, I stood at the bow looking everywhere but at my legacy, with that blue ribbon holding up her hair, eyes locked on the boy that I made her leave, waving. I have been chasing this great white dream for as long as catching him stood to promise that I could substantiate all the reasons I failed my family.
Well I wanted to be a brave man.
I wanted to prove to my wife that I wasn't a failure.
I wanted to tell my daughter that daddy always tried, and tried his hardest.
Tried his best to make it work.
His best was always at their expense, and all of the things that I idolized became my captors.
Now that it's too late, I know that drifting is a deeper threat than betrayal. No one has to convince you to abandon anything, you just inevitably end up downstream, maintain your pride and wonder why the world keeps on shifting, convinced you're still standing in the same place. You never mean to drift away.
Baby, if you survive and find this, I was right about one thing. Your mother used to say that I was afraid, but apathy is not the same as escape, and I was never running. It's just that I was never fighting.
Indifference sneaks in subtly, and subtleties can kill a man.
It will be of no comfort to you, though if there is a God, know that I will stand before him with no excuse, and I can only assume that he will weep,
"Tragedy, indeed, that innocence, though it never was, could have been."
M'lady, I have combed every inch of this island looking for the final pieces of wood needed to complete our wooded treehouse. I market the path with cryptic carvings of arrows for right turns and bayonets for lefts, and eventually it drops off into a waterfall, and you can rest assured that if anyone sniffs out our steps, every adult will sneer and bet that no one would be dull enough to jump off and into it.
Oh we are growing, but childlikeness is the only way to live, so hand in hand I will stand for nothing less than dives, you hear? Head first. (And also backflips, if you want to backflip, you can backflip).
But we're going to give this whole life everything that we've got, and if that means jumping off really high rocks and into water, so be it. And telling ghost stories with our face-painted friends around campfires (but for the love of god, no acoustic guitars, I hate campfire-acoustic-guitar-guys). And we'll have sleepovers and sleep over one another, and you'll get a chance to see your wishes come true beneath the same stars that I heard you whisper to when I pretended to be asleep all those months ago.
We've been playing our games, but they're just not the same without my Pocahontas to rescue me. Someone always plays your Algonquian dad-chief and I'm constantly John Smith getting my head bashed in with a war club. You'll probably laugh when you read this, but you don't hear any of those giggle-sounds coming up from Jamestown. Virginia is screwed.
I think it's my time to come to your rescue. If all our bottles find their way to one another, then surely our hands can, too. I've been sawing off branches to make room for our rooms and pitching them together to keep the moisture from coming through. I lifted a sail from in between the logs, nailed an engine to the trunk and stood at the front to balance and keep myself from falling off.
Well it's not perfect, but it will do. I'm going to ride our house's roof to come and get you.
So the boy set sail, and pushed off to sea, stood at the bow looking forward and out into everything, confident. And though he had no idea what the ocean would bring, "there are some things that I just know I believe, no matter how irreconcilable they seem."
- - -
My king, I want you to know something. Something that I always admired most about you. No matter how violent the storm, no matter how high the waves, no matter how dark the night, you never let the world get inside of your boat. You kept living when everyone else was sinking, and this whole life never got a droplet toward pulling you down to the ocean floor.
Admittedly, this last bottle has room enough for the last of my heart because I drank the last of it, myself. Hated it, by the way. Seems my father could have picked a vice that tasted better than rubbing alcohol, but hey, he gave me his last flask when he came downstairs to say that he wanted things to have been different, and I believed him.
He said he needed to go down with the ship, but he wished that I didn't, and I believed him.
Listen, the want to die is no longer a foreign thought in my mind. A lot of people want to.
And I could have died without leaving a note behind. A lot of people do.
He started slurring about a memory that he must have caught in the musty air, like a dust particle stuck to the glaze over his eyes. "When you were six years old, I stood inside our home, at a windowsill, and watched you walk back from that boy's house, down the street. I was sick, and went back to bed before I thought you saw me, and when I heard you call out, "Daddy?" I pretended to be asleep. I just didn't have the energy to get up and keep you from believing in the ghosts that you've seen ever since…"
He finally fixed his gaze, afraid, and said, "Honey, they've been haunting me, but I hope you don't have to see them any longer."
I believe him.
If I can give you anything, let it be that I have not bid my farewell from the ocean, but from the moment I waved goodnight after our first victory as body-painted newlyweds in a cul-de-sac colony, looking forward to morning, when our parents would let us sail through the quiet, neighborhood streets, and the dawn would bring us back together again. We were cowboys or we were indians or we were pilgrims, and none of us ever cared that cowboys didn't come here from England, we were just making our pilgrimage toward the sun, searching for freedom and rewriting history for everyone, but mostly us.
Baby, I'm still playing our game. I'm just sailing for the new world alone this time.
I wish I could come back to tell you what I find, but life has never consulted me before making all of these big decisions, and I stand helpless and hopeless unless the beauty you see in the mystery really points to something.
I wish we could explore this together.
Let me tell you, to die will be an awfully big adventure, but don't get lost, boy. I want to talk to one another about it, someday.
It's time to say goodbye. Such a definite word. An infinite word. An intimate word, but it needs to be heard so that you don't have to wonder why the bottles stopped coming.
You need closure to move on.
You can't sink with me.
You'll get this after I'm gone.
And I hope that you can use our tree house to love someone else once the tide has finally set you free. But don't tell her who you built it for. Make her believe that she's the reason you put all those hours into protecting the purity of that place. I think that, eventually, you'll believe it, too. I truly do not know whether time heals all wounds. It sounds like wishful thinking, but I do know that you can't stop living just because someone else has.
My love, don't sink. Don't sink.
If you're listening, we always talked about taking that voyage together. We didn't want to die in our sleep, like so many people wish for. Or, at least, she didn't. She thought it sounded boring, and even though dying scared me, I wanted to be brave enough to engage in the fantasy.
We decided we'd go out defending our tree house against the separatists. It was inevitable, once they'd finally discovered us kissing, traitorously, beneath their cootie infested "boys only" headquarters. We'd be cap-gunned to death.
She thought it was romantic, "like Romeo & Juliet" - she'd say. And I'd say, "okay," but wonder, like I always do, if anyone's actually heard that story.
I finished our tree house with the few scraps of deadwood that I was able to drag back to land. It seemed fitting, after our whole lives were broken homes, for all of those shipwrecked pieces to complete one.
It's beautiful. I feel like she might have called it redemption.
For a split second, as I watched the last of her craft fall beneath the surface of the water, I thought that we are all only stones in the ocean, and maybe it didn't matter that much, whether we lived or died. But she was right about taking thoughts captive.
I am lonely, and I can't reconcile loneliness with meaninglessness because, like beauty, it leaves me wanting for more. She is still a decision that floats out like debris, on ripples that began at her stone's throw.
You were a mountain to me.
Your earthquake leaves me trembling and I long beyond your beauty, past your breaking and out into whoever is responsible for your new beginning.
Maybe he knows the end.
When you first set sail and pushed off to sea, I stood on the shore looking forward, tongue tied and stubbornly holding tears behind my eyelids because no matter how much I liked you, girl, there was still a bit of boy in me, and I wasn't about to weep with you staring back, smiling.
I guess this is goodbye.
I knocked on every inch of this wooden tree house to keep that word away, but goodbye, despite all of my efforts, remains.
This is the last of our bottles. If it ever makes its way out to the new world, know that it was unending love that fueled the moon's magnetic pull to pursue you through the death that threatened to conquer it, and it is beautiful. It cannot fail.
Seasons, Levi The Poet's third release, and first true studio album to date, was released in December 2012. It was an experiment that altered the course of the project. With the help of his wife, Brandi Macallister, Levi teamed up with Glowhouse's Alex Sugg and Lowercase Noise's Andy Othling to incorporate their creative musicianship into the record.
Levi's faith, preceding years of theological study, recent marriage, and the loss of his father to suicide spurred him to write what became – through it all – Levi's darkest and brightest, most despairing and hope-filled album to date.
My dad said my pastors have made me a harsh man, and I should take notice while I can, before I am blinded to see: some will still is free. He'd bleed: you sure don't know much about mercy, and as you get older, elder, you'll see, there are other attributes that might benefit you, too. It haunts me, to think that that would be my blessing: the tone in dad's voice had seemed threatening, and now there's nothing I can do to reconcile them to you. And still I can't fight the fear that he was right; a notion that has left me terrified like he was when he went to sleep and woke up in glory.
Said the first mate to the ship captain, "Oh captain, my captain! I've not read the last page of whatever novel you've been writing down below but the bow is bending beneath the weather and your men hopelessly row against a current that I hope you can control..."
"So are the chapters erasable?"
Beneath waves of pipe tobacco and ashen ink that clings to the end of his quill, words spill across the oak tree trunk fashioned into a table, set before the author as he composes his fables… calmly, "sailor, I've enabled you to sail where I'd not and you've got a colorful tongue, boy, a rudder that rots at the root of the tree as the ship that you've built falls apart at its seams and you steer us deeper out into the seas."
The whole company's drowning. Thinks, god, that's so unfair to me. "But I've got a family!"
"Well then, father, you'd better feed your children, and stop blaming me for the immovable grasp that you have on the wheel! It's not like you didn't ask to hang your own sails, to raise your flag on the mast, to set course for a trail that followed gold to unknown waters in the mouth of a whale, so when the mast breaks in half, don't you say that I've failed."
And slowly, the sailer bows out the door, feigning humility, as the floor creaks, crushing worms that crawled out of his boots beneath the weight of such a scolding. That wormwood killed the crew, embittered them against the ship captain's last discipline out of love for you.
"My crewmen and my brothers and my friends and my son, all sank beneath the current pulled by the gravity of what I'd done, and these seas and the moon reflect the image of the one that left me without excuse once the end had come." Oh captain, my maker, I've got nothing left to say, would that I have praised, with nature, your invisible name but I bit off my fingers and left myself maimed, with a hook that's replaced years of pointed blame, It's too late! Is it too late to calm the waves? And would you turn your face away to drive me to grace? I am drowning! Awake! Walk the plank in my place. Walk the plank! Walk the plank! With my last words I say:
"Praise be the maker of my fate for the suffering he ordains."
It’s times like these that I used to be a lot closer to God. Well, I’ve got friends that don’t know him at all and when I miss him, well it’s a shame that they don’t know what they’re missing. This Will Destroy You is my writing music, and their progression makes me feel like I’m progressing through (or past) all of the empty inspiration and into something that might last – like letters to lovers could transcend their pages and cut deep into the heart of the receiver. Well I read a love letter labeled “Emotion” signed, “With Hate, love, The Deceiver.” And frankly, I couldn’t love him more!
Well I don’t know what’s in store for us but I know that not every glorious answer to prayer is from God, and some of these voices are not him speaking at all, but it’s so simple to convince yourself that it’s the Spirit talking to you (like each convenience is a virtue)… O! If practice makes perfect then I am going to pretend my way into feeling until I finally love my neighbor! But son, you are not writing out a single thing that is actually close to your heart, and I know the music tugs at its strings, but it hasn’t pulled it apart and you’ve been writing for everybody else for so long that you don’t know who you are! Because I swear the only way you find yourself nowadays is in these pages. (I mean, in those days, was in those pages.) I have not written or prayed for days and days and days and days and days and days and day AND DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS!
There is a time for everything that’s under the sun and this one has run its course. I’ve sworn up and down that there is more to pour out but it’s all forced and I don’t know anymore. That sadness became my comfort, and maintaining it became my chore… Well there is a time to weep and there is a time to mourn and there is a time to laugh and it is fighting for it’s place in a time of war! There are still monsters in my closets, Father! (and I can feel the shadow people hiding in the hallways). Are they ever going to stop sneaking up behind me? Is anybody else my age still afraid of a black night, and do you run in the dark in a panic for the light?
Well, it’s the sunken, disappointed, creeping-through-my-stomach-in-the-morning rise and fall of lungs on the verge of collapse keeping me from talking to God. It’s the sunken, swollen eyelids making love to all things permissible but proven hardly profitable at all. It’s the walls, thick as paper. I mean, thin as paper. I mean, thick or thin as paper as thick or thin as the plaid pajama-bottoms patiently passing as a passive activist for abstinence in-between thick skin… IT’S THE WALLS! fragile as paper that I can’t feel you through! It’s all vanity and vapor that I cater to my emotions because I am the most important person in my universe. Interlocking fingers with both God and Satan, so that after I’ve made love to the devil, I can stay on my knees and start praying.
There is a time for everything that’s stuck under the sun but you’ve been stuck in one for years now, and it’s time to move on. If I have truly found a new beginning, then why am I so hell-bent on living in the past? There is a difference between what you know, and what you practice, and I’ve had to practice purging my practices because I know I’ve heard promises of a life that gets past this: What I want to do, I don’t, and what I don’t, I do and I’ve been practicing depravity rather than knowing you. God! If your mercies are new every morning, then all of this can’t be grasping after the wind and I’ve seen vanity reach out its sweet hand to me and I’ve built my “firm footing” on it’s fragile whims. OH!!! There is a time to keep and a time to heal (and I am numb cuddling with these werewolves) and I know that there has got to be a time to feel. And the time is long past to cast away these stones:
I’m still broken, but I know you can rebuild these bones. I keep looking back before I go forward, but I just want to set my sights on home. I’ve got no Plan B. I’m just running for home. I’m still dragging, but I just want to make it home.
I’m as empty as these pages start out before I fill them, but I’ve not filled one up in (I’ve not filled one up in)... And I’ve heard it said that a blank page is a blank page for a new beginning, so may the choices that we make, well...
Christ, if we’re being frank, then at times I feel like you’ve got writer’s block. It’s a tempting thought ‘cause you know I get that a lot, and I keep wondering whether or not it makes you more relatable. If you’ve made yourself available to sympathize with my temptations, then there’s got to be a correlation between the album I can’t complete, the way my wife pushes me to be a man that I can’t see, and the overwhelming fear of art that’s a product of my apathy. (And that that’s all that that’ll ever be.)
Or worse yet, the sum total of critique at the expense of creativity.
Dear dust, my soul clings to a lot of idols you construct, and I wish that I could just let my God be God, and his gifts be gifts. Yeah, let my savior be my savior and let my money be what it is. (But I’ve got a wife to justify the worry for the sake of my future kids, and the life that I’ll feel like I’ll have failed my son for, like my father did.)
But no matter how hard it gets in every single day I wake within this narrative I live in, there’s just no security for me unless it’s a story that you’ve written. It will always be a mystery to me that before I was it was finished, it’ll always be a mystery to see the mirror reflect your image.
O! you’re the only hope I have! All of my stories leave me wanting, and all of the ghosts I’ve conjured up in the past threaten to come back to haunt me and act like a foundation. If you make yourself available to sympathize with my temptations, then there’s got to be a correlation between the artist and his drawing, the perfecter shading in the final scene that I can’t see, and the ink that is the very fabric of his nature flowing in me.
(And that said author wrote himself into the story.)
So may that ink spill out onto these pages and bring you glory.
Dear friends, I love you with words no poet could ever pen. I love you with a heart that weighs as heavy as the ocean, and I will love you with a depth that reaches to its floor, but when (it’s floor opens up to swallow me whole, o! and) I am no more, the only word that will live on will be that which was never born!
“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew, he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true, no, I was found of thee! Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold; I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea, ‘twas not so much that I on thee took hold, as thou, dear Lord, on me. I find, I walk, I love, but, O the whole of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee; for thou wert long beforehand with my soul, always thou lovedst me!”
Dear friends, dear saints! Your story is secure. We all are more free together tethered to our maker than we ever were before. May our adoption be secure! The only word that will live on will be that which was never born.
When through unrepentant sorrow damaged roads these saints tread on, be grace to me, my savior, that I might join your song. Though I swim through lawless waters, peer through eyes blind and depraved, be calm to me, my savior, and in mercy hush the waves. And through irresistible grace, let my heart break at your call. In holiness, King Jesus, enthroned, redeem the fall. When through covenanted love devastation is ordained, pursue me, my savior, that I might trust your ways. And sing, hallelujah. And suffer, hallelujah. Though my voice be inconsistent, I will sing consistently. What a tragedy to ever cease in praises unto thee.
You can build a firm foundation on everything you own, but those hands cannot claim their craftsmanship without the builder of their bones. Behind every builder is a builder built out of mortar and stone, and that dust can construct a house that creaks and groans, but he cannot make it a home.
Well I’ve been searching for a plot of land to put my hand to the plow. I’ve got a lot of friends out there that say it’s all about the south. Well, Georgia was gorgeous until I hit Oregon, so I don’t know about that now! But I’ve been searching for answers to questions that have yet to be answered, or maybe just yet to be found.
I’ve got a newfound friend in North Carolina. I sat on her back porch for a week and a half, and smoked cigarettes with her mom. She stared down at that cancer stick in her mouth as she packed her next round, said, “It helps me think better.”
“Well ma’am, my problem is that I think too much, and all of this chain smoking leads to chains of thought that I can’t turn off – now how can you help me with that?”
But I’m finally getting to quitting smoking cigarettes, two years after the two packs of 27s that I talked about two years ago in my poems, and yet there are rolling hills just south of San Francisco where 580 intersects with the aqueduct, and my last match could set a fire ablaze and leave the valley looking like my lungs. And I’d stand on the side of highway and watch it burn, watch it light up the sky (burn), watch it burn like the fire that you said you saw in my eyes.
It burns for you! I met a man who said he knew that passion, too, but he’s got coals in his eyes where the light burned out: he scared that he’s the one who doused it, it’s something he’s always thinking about! You can see it in his countenance – you can see it in his doubt – you can see it in his temper when he tries to let the pressure out. He shouts: “When it comes time for you to settle down, make sure that she’s the one,
cause I’ve got a wife in a house my kids call their home, but they don’t know what we’ve become.” And he smiles and it looks like sadness: says he still loves the Lord, but he’s wondering where the time goes, and if the Lord loves him anymore.
Just down the street from his apartment building is a house that weeps for him. We, friends that called it a home and invited everybody in, singing, “Solace! We are a broken family!" (Oh! So at least we all know that we’re not alone!) AT LEAST WE CAN SING WITH SINCERITY! “SOLACE!” We are a honest home!”
(Singing out of the dust we came, come: weathered temporary HOUSES THAT CREAK AND GROAN!)
(She steps out the back door) Puts away her keys, makes her way past the gargoyles guarding her porch from the street: she’s got her rain boots on! She saves them for days like these, sings, “I hate this rainy weather!” She laughs and she thinks of me. She’s got her rain boots on: polka-dotted pink against the leaves, sets her thoughts to thoughts of God, friendships, and family.
Jesus! I drove to Joplin, Missouri, with mourning in my bones and we all are decomposing houses, but I think you make us a home. I am an accumulation of sticks and stones and words, and as it were, I’m prone to wander, Lord I know, I’m prone to wander off on my own! Well I’ve been searching for a plot of land to plant my seed, and grow, but Great Mystery, of all the places I’ve been, you’re the only peace I’ve ever known. So be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home, but home is not where the heart is, my heart is a home, and where you go: I will follow. WHERE YOU GO, I WILL FOLLOW! So, Solace, we are a broken family. (Oh! But at least we know that we’re not alone.) At least we can sing with sincerity. Solace, we are an honest home. (Singing out of the dust we came, come: weathered temporary houses that creak and groan.)
“We are not afraid of the darkness! There are cracks in every house, it’s not houses we’re worried about!” “We are not afraid of the darkness! There are imperfections in our home, shadows in our souls!” (And still:) “We are not afraid of the dark! There is no place for the lampshade that covered up my heart!” “We are not afraid of the dark! Matchless flames we matches made out of one, single spark!”
WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF THE DARK
I wish I could have found a better way to be a better son. I didn't do the best I could like I told myself I did when the guilt tried to push me home. (But I tell myself the truth now.)
If you were still alive, I'd still never come up that mountain because fifteen minutes is far too far to drive when you're as lazy as I am. I would wish my good intentions for you to interpret through a dial tone, whisper, "I love you,” and wonder after I'd hung up the phone.
"Well my son, he's a traveler, and he walks the same vein, and he speaks like a flood, and he carries my name, and when he comes home I mask all of my pain so that he want to visit me again." (Or that's what my sister will say.)
I wish I could have found a reason to be content, and been a kid for as long to you wished I would have, but you started missing me the moment I was conceived. I know because I always live in the future until I call it "now" and "here" is not a place that I've ever been.
It kills me, and it killed you. I'm done pretending that I've ever made the best of my time (I tell myself the truth now.)
If you were still alive you'd still lay alone on the ground day in and day out, doubting that I love you enough to drive fifteen minutes to spend fifteen minutes of the two months I'm home in our home. And you're right: I don't.
"Well my son, he's an author, and I've been reading his poems, and he writes like a fire, and he is bone of my bones, and when he's around I know that I know that I am the reason I am always alone.
But I don't know how to fix it.”
(the writer wrote):
“I drove to California on my own to try to get myself sad enough to write a new album. I prayed and prayed for a salve that would heal the pain in my heart, and once the wound was held together, I pulled the stitching apart.
It’s like the Lord answered all of my prayers, and now I want my questions back, and search for ways to spite his grace, and get my old gods back. Dear, I can’t pretend that I didn’t thrive off of the emptiness I felt inside before the spirit invaded the void, just like I asked him to, and shared with all of you.
I stepped out the front door and tossed up my keys to find myself in a closet stuffed with all of my insecurities, and all of the things that I’m ashamed of, and every broken memory that I keep to cut my wrists – and be it vain or be it pity, well I know that I still bleed, and I keep the shards of mirrored glass to see my expression as I seep out onto the carpet and stain my bare feet in a puddle that I’ll drown in eight quarts deep.
When I was a boy, my daddy told me to unclench my fists – hold out my hands (like this) – and pray – like a picture of letting the Lord take your fears away. But he forgot to loosen his grip when it came time to practice it, and the thought got convoluted the day he went away. Jesus! If you see this, I hope I see him again someday.
I drove alone along the western coast to write a poem somebody could relate to. I reopened every wound and bled myself dry just to try to feel the same way that I used to. I drove past the city at night, with the windows down, to watch the lights – and be so cold that I’m uncomfortable: you know I do it to myself. These headphones could be playing something else, but ‘we’re at the bottom of everything’ like the songwriter sings, and I make myself shiver until I believe it. I know every word to every song about despair, and I keep the album on repeat to keep me there.”
She hit the first note and then that note set me free. Well, I fell in love with her sadness before she fell in love with me, but the best letters are those written in tears that smear the ink, so she played the keys and I started writing.
“I wrapped that sorrow up tight, like a noose around my neck, stood tall on a flimsy card table, and kicked it out from underneath my legs. And I’ve been hanging in a house of cards for months on end, swinging back and forth beneath a creaking rafter at the wind’s every whim. I always ‘forgot’ to close the windows so that I could let in the cold, knowing discomfort and disappointment were the only peace I’d ever known. I’ve got excuse upon excuse for every broken bone, but in the end, I broke them all myself to give the pain a home.
Dear Pianist, I love you more than you’ll ever know. I swear your smile saved my life. I swear your touch made me whole. But there is not an end to the self-condemning lies that I have believed, and there is no depth that I have not known in attempts to drown myself (or: set myself free) – to the point of pushing you away from me. I drove the country on my own in an attempt to break my heart, and I’ve opened my heart to every fleeting hope in an attempt to fall apart.” She said, “we fall apart and into our gods, but God meets us where we are! (and) Oh what a thought! (To live a life that’s free!) But we are such a self-destructive bunch, aren’t we? Writer, you are a part of me and there is nothing you can do to set to flame the fabric that has woven me to you. I will not be your broken heart and I will not be your empty oath, o! with our hands laid flat in surrender I swear we will both let go of the chains that choke us, that wrap their hands around our throats, and I will play you a new song and the lyrics that you wrote will accompany the melody” and every word she spoke was a land of milk and honey that I thought I’d never know.
I drove to Washington on my own to sorrow in the rain, but we danced over every puddle, and joy washed the pain away, and it rode the gutters into the ocean, and the currents out beyond it’s shores, to a whisper beyond the horizon, to be forgotten and thought of no more.
"I poured myself the stiffest drink my stomach could stand,” thought: Conor would be proud of the man that I am - and listened to a friend's local band jam old Van Morrison covers. “Ma'am, it's a godawful night for a moon dance,” and my dad used to sing along to "the stars up above in your eyes.” It's a fantabulous night to make romance to my mother 'neath the cover of October skies.
But a California King is a world in and of itself when all that is left of the king reigns from a picture on the shelf.
Well here I am: the end-all, who's come to judge and decide whether all of God's reasons for letting you die are damnable, or worthy of praise. (O detestable pride, I liked you that way.)
So do I rage at the Potter for destroying the clay that he made like we're somehow entitled to more than this? Or do I praise the Maker for giving and taking away? If you taught me that life is not meaningless, then this life is not meaningless.
To dust we go, and from dust we came. Blessed be your name. Naked we come, and naked we remain. Blessed be your name.
Well I said, "I do" two months after my dad disappeared and he was supposed to be the priest that married me. Daughter, your father loved you more than I fear you will ever be able to see, but I need you to receive it, because there were nights that he'd fight to stay alive just to see you, Bree. (And I’d step out the front to toss up my keys and leave and breath a sigh of relief while he wept bitterly never believing I believed that: "He loved me!") Wife, your husband loved you more than his life, and I think that maybe he thought he gave you yours back. "O! Every old photograph is a painful reminder of losing what we had!
I was one with someone! (and now I am but a half)."
Dear world, I wrote to tell you that the sun is shining down on Southern California today, and I wish that you could be here to see it. In the end, maybe God will piece our bones back together again, and me and my dad’s skeleton’s will drive too fast over the whoop-de-doos in death valley, just like we did in my memories, before death started eating at his spine.
I am not fine. At least sometimes, I am not fine, and if only years gone by forget the pain and wounds heal over time, then it’s just a different type of pain that comes to occupy my mind, like, “How could I be fine? How could you be fine?” And I start hearing these questions like the accusations that wake my sister up in the night, and leave her terrified to close her eyes because the demons never close their eyes (and I thought Jesus never closed his eyes but Christ, you sure seem blind sometimes).
Dear Dad, Van Morrison will always remind me of you. And it stones me to my soul to know that you were the ghost in our kitchen window, but not as much as it stoned you.
I hope you finally escaped that window frame that held you captive all these years.
Dear God, I’ve got a lot of fear, like are you big enough to handle all of my fear? And what exactly will “handling” it look like from here and: do you hear me? Do you hear us?
How we longed for our mother's womb (or stillbirth). How we cursed your name and turned to embrace the plague! "Watch and wait, watch and wait while I weep and pray, weep and pray!" How we tolerate the weight of the shame that stacks on its pounds! Our heavy eyelids, sleep betrayed, sleep soundly: sleep soft and sound!
"Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. [Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend, through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.]
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. [Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.]
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart and all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. [Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay from His own fulness all He takes away.]
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. [Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last."]
When the speaking ceases, I know I’ll stand alone at the foot of a mountain (as a footstool), feet sinking into the quiet beneath the mouth of a fool, thinking, “Be still and know that I am God!” Beneath storehouses of snow and storehouses of hail, with my head hung low, “I’ve failed! I’ve failed!” (My life was never mine at all.)
At the fall, when Eve stood subservient before the serpent, flicking his tongue, with his tail choking out the root: “I’ll make a god out of you; you’ll be the fruit of my labor. Together you and I will never die, like the creator!” (But God, I make such a terrible maker.) And the devil’s eyes dance from side to side while Adam stands idly by, pointing his finger. I swear passivity will prove to be the root of all evil, while the mouth, like an open grave, shifts the blame...
But I can speak out venom tethered behind my teeth (as sharp as the next man’s, or any beast on a leash). Yeah it’s poisonous, it’s cunning, it’s a venomous seed. It’s the fear that I breed. If gives root to a need to drag an audience down with me.
King David had knees as hard as camel’s, but I’m working on burning the enamel off my teeth, fuming, “My tongue is a rudder and a forest fire and the whole ship is ablaze, sinking into the sea!” [Mutiny! Mutiny!]
We will not stand for your hand of peace that you sweep over the waves, we do not want to be saved! I killed a man in my dreams. Woke up weeping to realize how much the hate in our hearts was getting to me. Well out of its overflow, the mouth speaks, so we are attached, and I am guilty of rash promises, a fool’s voice, and a hasty muscle that beats uncontrollably, and yet: like the pulse of the tumult colliding against brave Peter’s sense of safety, I act in control of my breathing until I am out of breath and then cry out, “Heaven! Save me!”
Hands cuffed over our ears! Mouths open and rash promises we fail to follow through as we offer them up like they hold conviction and when they come up lacking we can always blame you. It’s so convenient that I can make my passivity your responsibility - praise and curse you when I want to. So may blessing pour from my mouth, Lord, when I think that you are worth it (but I reserve the right to withhold it all on the days that you don’t deserve it).
James, sometimes I’m afraid I may have been grafted into a vine just to spark a flame that burns branches, bridges, and overwhelms the grapes (left raisins that betray the image of said glorious name before the rooster crows at the end of the age). God! I need grace bigger than my mouth! I need mercy that resounds ten thousand times as loud. I need redemption that rings clearer than my distortion. [I need you.]
I made it a goal: to write down a page a day, but then my chest started aching, and my legs started shaking uncontrollably; anxiety that swallowed whatever words I thought I had to say until I drowned myself whole behind those thick, paned-glass windows (the world beyond, but a transparency unbreakable). Tangled syllables, lost letters and words that mean nothing, but I’m trying to learn how to create a landscape from torn paper, a dry brush and vapor, as if I’m the creator who makes something out of blank space. Catering my forward motion to an audience, like I’m the only creature in the ocean that got God’s backhand with bitter providence, and wondering what it means to sing, “God left me!” and breathe, simultaneously. (As if I could utter another complain, hammer in another stake, or raise up and insurrection against the king who bore my fate without the common grace he gave me.)
We’re all hypocrites, baby. We’ve all got serpents in our throats that strike at one another’s heels and hiss as if to boast the pressure between the tongue and the roof of my mouth would be enough to withhold the heel that already crushed the entire skull.
I need grace bigger than my mouth. I need mercy that resounds ten thousand times as loud. I need redemption that creates a new song from my distortion. [I need you.]
It’s like the spirit answered all of my prayers, and now I resent him for it. Well, I used to take so much time for myself to just sit and be silent, I haven’t heard that sound in years, but I’ve replaced it with a lot of voices that claimed to be god.
The first poem I ever wrote was about San Francisco, and the homeless and what I was told; I was twelve years old and I rhymed “poor white bro” with “chips of Nabisco” given to a beggar as he pushed his cart down the road. That boy got buried at Height & Asbury, beneath the Ben & Jerry’s and a big city and a pretty girl is the only thing that gets his heart to beating again. But this all used to be for nothing and no one, and now I shout transparency, but I miss all of my secrets. I would rather know pain than be numb, but then again, we asked for the opiates to numb the pain for us.
Will I always fall asleep to dream to of mending up my wounds, then wake to spend the day reliving every bruise for the sake of a sad song, or a sweet repose, or seeing the blood flow from the stitching like it were a cavalry of demons in retreat, promising to leave me alone? They’re liars. The release is never as satisfying as the promise to fix what’s been sewn. We get bottled up like the alcohol gets bottled up and then we bottle it up in us, and I search for ways to define myself by some skeptical lack of trust, because if I can’t trust in anything, then I’m not to blame for my lack of movement, and I can abuse everyone’s pity, and I can convolute it.
My sister used to sing when she was younger, but the world, it got at her throat, and she put that dream away while coming of age acted as a serpent, and questioned her home. When I was young, I wanted to be a cowboy, and then I wanted to be Superman. And then I wanted to wear my cowboy boots over my Superman costume, and be Cowman… well I am a cow, man, all of my fantasies about my wife to be are based upon things I should have never seen (said all our fantasies about our wives to be are based on positions that should have never been…) Idolized by our eyes – worshipped as though they gave us life, but that’s the nature of the beast, and he still squirms next to wisdom as she screams, clawing for me on the streets. And how does life begin as a seed, that turns to scream out for something, like someone misnamed “gift” for “to be inherently found wanting”?
If there is so much joy to be had, then tell me where I went wrong, because for all the times I've tried to satisfy my mom, I still cannot write a joyful song. "So, mom, I tried, and near October, I thought that I could do it, but November threw us in to a whirlwind again, and come January, I knew it: all the things I told my fans about the hope that I had found are lying in a hotel bathroom, in a puddle of blood on the ground." And someone will love it because it’s honest, and someone will hate it because it’s crude, but as for me: for every time I give my testimony to a crowd, I'll lie awake at night and wonder about whether or not I've told the truth. God, forgive me. I believe a lot of lies that come from the mouths of a lot of good liars, (namely: me). And I'd rather tie a millstone around my neck and throw myself into the sea than perpetuate some emotionally-driven blasphemy that you don't care for the suffering. Suffering servant, give your children eyes to see the wonders that you have for them, and ears to hear the direction for their wandering, wandering feet.
Grieve with me! (Will you grieve with me?) Oh at the cross, the promise we receive: "I will grieve with you with groanings too deep for words, I will sympathize with the temptation to believe the lies that you have heard, I will mourn over the loss of finite family and friends, and I will defeat death so that you will know that death is not the end."
So at the cross of Christ I know that the bonds of sin are broken, that they bar the gates of hell for me and heaven's doors are open as wide as my sweet Savior's arms were stretched out when he died, and that love has defeated death with a life for me to hope in. At the cross of Christ I know that despair has been removed, that it drowns beneath the crushing weight of hope as found in you. As blood flows and puddles to cover every self-inflicted bruise, murder becomes salvation, the resurrected truth. At the cross of Christ I know that anger has found its vengeance, that righteousness became sin for me and that only at the remembrance of a man acquainted with sorrows do I stand forgiven of my resentment, as wrath and justice turn aside to crucify my defendant. At the cross of Christ I know that shame has lost it's place, that Jesus Christ endured the curse and scorned all the disgrace, and atoned before the throne as death fled without a trace, that I might enter in and look full on his wonderful face.
I am convinced that the love of God is as boundless as the seas were they to overflow and break the barriers into the expanses of creation’s boundaries. Were the water to rush like waves, were we the innumerable grains of sand, carried in its storm towards a timelessness, held in a sovereign hand… Eternity would be the first to sing that it were not enough, and it would burst forth into another in effort to contain such a love.
I am convinced that the grace of God is as unfathomable as the space that the seas of love would spill into as they pour forth and cover all of my shame. Should all infinity be swathe, were we the innumerable stars in the sky, swept by the flood into a righteousness, clearly seen by redeeming eyes… Eternity would be the first to sing that it were out of place, were it supposed that it should be sufficient to contain such a grace.
I am convinced that the joy of God is as incomprehensible as the heights of which the oceans of love and grace are subject to spill over into life. Were all of hell to bear its swords, were we the innumerable elect, lead into war behind a white horse, a king who defeated sin and death… Eternity would be the first to sing that it could not employ a volume or song sufficient enough to describe such a joy.
2009 - 2011 found Levi The Poet on tour for 8 to 10 months out of the year. Two days before Thanksgiving '11, Levi released a follow up - the Monologues EP - through Come&Live! Records. The album consisted of only five tracks but boasted a lengthy 41 minutes of poetry. "Kaleidoscope" and "Memories" became fan favorites and, as Levi's writing matured, so did his interest in narrative. Truth exists within a narrative, and Levi The Poet was becoming an invitation to engage in a greater story. Monologues asked questions. It recalled life on the road and what it was like to "live the dream" away from loved ones at home. It told the story of a woman who wondered whether she would ever see beauty or color. It looked hard at love and abuse and loss and life. Its final track became an artistic retelling of Luke's gospel, an ode to the ultimate Storyteller.
You. You were the seed that grew from nothing out of the ground.
Those trees raise aged hands toward heaven high. Their fingers stretch for the sky, but they cast dark shadows into a darker night, singing songs forever, never-ending into nothing, past the reach of the headlights. They’re old, knotted and wise, and they catch the wind, grin, avert their eyes from meeting mine, and suck those secrets deep inside. We used to whisper in one another’s ears, but those oaks have secrets that stretch back for years, and now they hold the key – selfishly – to the wind on which to fly.
We set you on the highway. Like a memoir to some feeling we were trying to portray, with absolutely no story or significance whatsoever. Well your mind races on the open road as the time. ticks. by. Said, “you know I’ve got a girl back home and I can picture her livin’ her life.” It’s the simple things that you think about on those late. night. drives. Like I’m going to bed; she’s waking up alone, and I am fine.
Do you believe in the fairy tales your mother read to you at night? Can you still go there when you need to? To that place inside your mind? Cause I do, sometimes. I swear to god it’s as real as the hand I hold in mine, and those fairy tales told you magic happens with the rising of the tide. So when the sun sets in the sky, and the moon reflects the light that pull the waves over my eyes, I close them tight, and pretend that I’m going to live forever until I know that I am right.
You can catch the wind, you’ve just got to try, and we’re all as infinite as the lines that pass by on the highway. These trees on the sides, they are wise but they’re stuck beneath the pavement. I don’t want to be stuck beneath the pavement. There’s got to be a way to breathe without being stuck beneath the pavement.
You were a seed that grew from a crack in the highway! But those fairy tales, I swear they kept you alive, and I just want to hold onto that shine - there’s got to be something that shines bright from those tree limbs!
We play mix tapes of love songs about loss and travel, no I mean, we play mix tapes of lost songs about road trips and being young. I mean, we play mix tapes of travel songs about love and lost loved ones. I mean, I’m lost.
The atlas threatens, bold out on the open road, and dares us to count the cost. It taunts, beckons, time ticks by seconds of life that screams it’s lost. Change is subtle. And you change a lot with the seasons, but home… home does not. These roads always lead me back to the city, but the miles find me forgotten, and the trees raise weary hands for high heaven, and dig their roots into dead soil, and rot. But a shining, aligning star gave birth to your bedside tale, and every night, I sing you to sleep whether you know it or not. I play for you, I pretend that you’re there in the room, listening like you know that I’m giving all I’ve got.
You know your mind, it races on the open road, you start to daydream when you’re sleeping alone. We live outside of your mortar and stone and your whispers and secrets that you claim as your own. You know I’ve got a girl back home, and I can picture her, livin’ her life. It’s the simple things that you think about on these late night drives. I’ve got a letter going back to the city, she’s wakin’ when I close my eyes. Pretending that I’m gonna live forever until I know that I am right.
[You told me that your god was beautiful, but I have not complained about every ugly thing he’s done for the sake of saving face. If there is such a thing as grace, then I must presume either that I have not earned it, or he’s saving it all for you…] So don’t you worry about a thing. Surely your god’s got you like a puppet on a string.
She had a stained glass window for a heart – a shoebox for a chest cavity, and a kaleidoscope for a soul that would reflect its light back at me. Depending on the day, she shone different colors. She had a handful of favorites that she kept locked inside her cupboards. She’s got drawers in her stomach, yeah she knows how to swallow her pride, but it get compartmentalized in the crawlspaces, and builds up inside. She says she’s fine, but she lies, so she keeps sunglasses on to try to hide her eyes. And at night, she stays out of the shadows – it’s one of the only times that her true color shines.
She says, “You’re talking about me like you know what I mean, but you know nothing about leading that kind of life. “Baby doll, my heart is as black as my lungs are. I keep bitterness in these cabinets next to all my bad habits – you either find faith, or lose it – you either had it or have it – Well I have had it! So I wear my smile on the good days that I keep in these baskets, wear my grimace facing life without the opiate for the masses. You pop your god like these pills that I take to bear the circumstances – What’s the difference? I called out to your god, but he never listened. You call it praying, well I’m just wishing that things could’ve been different.”
She says her daddy didn’t want her, so she squanders to be the mother/father figure for her daughter. A piece of clay recreating herself as a beautiful basin from the situation that she was placed in – build for retaining life – a feat manufactured without the proper water or the potter… And her heart… it cuts like a knife! It’s priceless and it’s as hard as a diamond, but she’s been selling it for nickels and everybody’s been buying. So now there’s cracks in the basin, the way there’s cracks in the basement – the one that daughter’s daddy beat her in when she’d dare to face him… the way there’s cracks in the cement that she can dig her high heels in while she waits for another customer to pour his water in.
She says her momma was a little bit crazy, a little lazy, a little biased towards the media mainstream. Prone to fainting or naming it fainting when she’d pass out after blazing just after papa came home late for the hazing. The alcohol made him crazy! See, that’s when I started praying, praying, praying, but nothing’s changing, changing, changing, so that’s when I started blaming, blaming, blaming, we’re all on our own, the stars are empty, there’s no hand out there to save me, save me,
She loved Vogue, and American teen magazines, almost as much as she loved vomiting to try to match the model women that she’d she on the movie screens. Says, “I believe that she loved me, and maybe it’s a fantasy, but I believe that she cared for me the way she cared for her methamphetamines.”
Don’t tell me I need saving! You point those fingers so righteously, all these people pushing for me to practice their piety… well, I gave your god a chance to save me, so thank you kindly, greatly, but it’s just me and my baby, me and my little girl – us against the world, well…
Sweet dreams, daughter! I’m gonna be your mother! I’m gonna be your father! So every time another man just like her father bought her, she spent the nickels on diamonds for her daughter.
She had prisms for eyes – and one time she took off her mask, and let me inside. I paid her for her time, told her that she was valuable and she replied, “Only as valuable as the next man in line.” Well I came to tell you that you’re beautiful. I think you’re lovely. I think that you’re made for more than you’ve settled for.
She said, “All of them tell me they love me. I used to dream, I used to have big plans, I used to believe that there was something out there that was bigger than me, and that he would take care of me, and that I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be, but I guess it’s too late for me, so I started selling my dignity to give my daughter that dream, and to make it a reality… I used to dream! I never meant to quit! So who’s to blame for this bullsh- Shh, shh, girl, I will not even mention… it.
The hands that we’re dealt – I don’t understand. And I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know all the plans. I just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful, I think you’re lovely, I think I know love that loves the unloving. “Yeah! You told me your god was gorgeous, but I just can’t see it! I want so badly to see color! I want so badly to believe it!” I keep an ounce of hope inside one dresser drawer in my chest! Every now and then, it grows, if watered, to a seedling, at best. One time, it grew and stretched through the cracks into the next, but I just can’t make it blossom, cause I just can’t make myself forget… and now there’s nearly nothing left…
She’s got a kaleidoscope soul, but she’s got grayscale lenses, she’s got rod-iron bars to keep up her defenses. She’s got all of her emotions hung up on hooks in her closets, she’s got little hints of happiness tucked away in her lockets. She’s got high hopes of heaven stapled to the doors of her cabinets, she wraps the hopes up in packets of personal baggage to mask it. She’s got angels singing to her from the lips of ballerinas in a music box that she keeps locked behind a door that’s cemented to a heart of rocks, but if you knock long enough, they say that door could be opened. Here’s to hoping…
until then, I wanted you to know that you’re beautiful. I think you’re lovely, I think I know love that loves the unloving. I think you’re still loved, I still think it’s true. I still there’s more hope out there for you. Yeah I think you’re beautiful. I think you’re lovely. I think you could know love that loves the unloving.
I told this girl about God while I was drunk in her living room. We were talking about love. She said, “Yeah… I see the love in you.” I’m not saying that it was right, but I do think it’s true – God uses some pretty foolish things to get inside of you.
We had the most sporadic, passionate conversation about God; about what ails you, about the hallucinations that I had as a kid. About the family that she always wanted, but never did. About the marriage that she wanted for her parents that spilt over into a broken childhood, and fearful relationships.
She said, “God! I can’t help it!” She said, “It’s all that I’ve known.” She said, “All I want is a hand to hold onto.” She said, “And I’m scared of being alone.” And I didn’t tell her it’s alright. I didn’t tell her it’d be fine. I didn’t try to search for words or answers to questions that aren’t there to find… I just sat with her inside the silence of the night, and sparked up another cigarette, and offered her a light. Because sometimes you don’t want the input – the wrong or right – you just want someone to zip their lip and sit with you and sympathize.
I think it’s that thought – sitting in your car in the cold – sharing winter coat pockets with the hand of a person you don’t know. And if ever your eyes didn’t lie, I could look into your soul, cause that sadness all comes out in the freezing truth of the snow… A good friend once said, “It’s hard to live with the dead and not end up dead and especially once you’ve shared the same bed…”
Well, mom, I didn’t mean to hurt you – I just left – but you can rest assured, I’ve got a lot of regrets, and there’s something deeper-seeded that I’m trying to protect, but I have not found that, yet. I’m returning to the arms of lesser love, “nothing good ever happens after midnight” god above, she was right! We packed away your past into boxes, and all of the little foxes slipped through my grasp, singing, “your heart beats so, so fast on top of me!” Awkwardly, your forward behavior is shocking me and I wonder if this is meant to last.
But I found that dead rat in the parking lot, stapled it to the wall, singing “he loves me, he loves me not.” I’m lost! But if it turns out to be a battle not won, but fought, then I’ll have left you with the scent of every hated failure you forgot.
Welcome to Albuquerque, where everybody’s lonely! Where everybody needs to feel you out before it’s homely, “but nobody’s willing to put forth the effort to get to know me!” I’m learning to allow things to just happen slowly, but I just want somebody here to hold me.
“All your words run together.”
But you know how we get in the winter - once all of the leaves start falling, falling off of all of the trees. (I swear you can see their colors changing in me…) We strip bare like them, there, and if anybody cared they could see we’re all stripped cold down to our souls, we’re vulnerable and lonely. O! If I could, I would walk away from myself! But I’ve lost all worth in the eyes of everybody else – and your eyes are bluer than any I’ve seen… And your bluer eyes have found me completely wanting:
“Hey, if you fall any deeper, could you fall into me?” (Honestly, there’s not a lot of honesty beneath thin pieces of clothing between you and…) well, you’ve see the best of me, the worst is yet to come. (But when I come, you’ll find your monsters penetrating deep inside and in-between, the innocence you stole, and the tip of my tongue.)
“Help me find my body – I’ve lost it in your hands… but my worth cannot be measured in your eyes (because they’re dead).” And if you magnify that death, well that is your eyes, and such beautifully blue eyes are so sad inside. And if you magnify that sadness, well that is your life. (How can someone so dead be such a beautiful blue outside?)
Well, Merry Christmas, darling! I wrote to tell you that that concrete factory turns into a city of lights at night, (and if you wait for it… just wait for it – you can watch it happen right after the sun sets out of the sky). I pray earnestly in the mornings, but at night, my sight blurs as black as your eyes did the last time I tried to tell you I loved you, and that I was happy that you were mine. (I don’t tell you so soon), but I haven’t been kissed in so long and this night altered the very course we walk on, and five years later, I’m still singing those songs… listenin’ to Isis! Well, it became my theme song for life because life didn’t used to be like this!
I WRITE TO STAY ALIVE!
And December 25th, 2005 is the day that I died (started taping back my eyelids), pumping my lungs with fake air and good highs and absorbing you night after night smile like I believe you when you tell me I’m priceless – but you lie. I can see it in your eyes, I can see what you’re thinking as you pour me another shot of whiskey – keep drinking. (There you go girl, it’s fine, I can buy your love for $14.95)
BUT I WEPT RED! I WEPT RED FOR YOU! I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING! And now I’ve got letters marked “Virginia” written on loose leaf sheets, lengthy paragraphs from my mother, written in red ink, about how she’s so proud of me – her little bird with her big wings – her clipped wings – her newspaper clippings with pictures of butterflies, pretty things that she’s been pasting to her journals to remind her that she’s not beyond saving.
“Don’t be the gold ring in the pig’s snout, and be sure to write if you ever need us to help you out.” I put this journal away for so long, and tried to wrap my head around those years, those eggshells that I stomped on. “Let’s get something perfectly clear, there’s nothing left to uncover – there’s nothing left to bury here.”
I write to stay alive.
Lust without love is brutality personified.
“Whatever you were looking for at that point and time in your life, was never me, and you were never mine.” See, it’s getting warmer back home, and I know you’re getting colder all alone, but I can’t figure out if I’m lonelier when you’re here, or when I’m on my own. It’s amazing how quickly a beating heart can turn to stone, and out of the mouth, it’s overflow becomes… well, what overflow? You know? But now those years pass by as quickly as the pages I flip through, and I’ll always deny it, but every now and then, I miss you. “No one’s eyes speak to me like yours do.” I don’t want the wrongs or rights, I used to adore you… now, it’s all I can do to forgive you.
So September sometime, two thousand and nine, this girl and I, we drank a little wine and talked a lot about life. And she said, “See, last July, I finished this diary of mine – and I planned to keep all of it locked up behind closed doors. But I don’t know anymore, I just don’t want to bear this alone anymore. Could I tell you what’s on my mind?” It was a passionate conversation, a sporadic conversation, a don’t-interrupt-and-I’ll-try-to-tell-you-what-happened conversation, a look-I-don’t-want-the-answers conversation, it was a secret, I’m-gonna-take-my-chances conversation.
And I didn’t tell her not to cry. I didn’t tell her it’d be fine, I didn’t search for words to remedy the pains she kept inside, I just sat with her, decided it was better to be quiet while she tried to fight the silhouettes I see still clinging to her heart against the light. And that’s alright. Each word lifts it’s burden and flies away with the smoke into the night. Sometimes, you just want somebody to be silent.
That little brown book carries a lot of weight, I regurgitated my heart to those pages, and to me, they reverberate through time and space. It is what it is. It is what it was.
Words are what remain."
Seventeen years younger and as carefree as you can be, that tricycle rolls around Date street – over all of his father’s worries. How he smiled when he saw that tricycle! How he smiled when I saw that tricycle! How his heart melted over his bipolar soul when his seed learned to ride that tricycle!
Bicycle! How he smiled and his smile grew wider as he ran behind that bicycle – holding the seat of that bicycle – while his seed screamed, “Don’t let go of me and my bicycle!” How his chemicals got the best of him when he finally let go and his [in]dependant son learned to ride on his own. How his seed pedaled further and further down the street and he watched, and he would have like to believe that his eyes beamed with pride, but they beamed with sadness and those wheels kept on spinning past need and dependency.
I picture. I picture my father, healthy, healthy, sitting next to my mother behind a closed bedroom door where I can’t see… and he stares down at his hands and he buries his face in them and he’s wondering where the time goes – where the end of four years left him without a bike to hold on to, while his boy rides the red and silver memory down the street, wondering where his gift of a bike that he can’t hold on to anymore will take his boy.
I hear his chemicals rip apart at that feeling of being wanted that he kept close to his heart, and he can’t take his eyes off of his cracked fingers that his seed doesn’t need to steady the seat anymore, because his boy can do it on his own.
I wanted to tell the tale as detailed as the demons did with those four white walls as their canvas.
Well, my father’s father was a failure! And his mother loved her lover more than she loved her sons. My father is nearing the end of a good fight that he’s fought since the beginning: a far better man than the one he feared he might become. Glendora will always be the place his brain fragmented, and China will always be the place that he felt whole. Beijing will be the place the devil tried to fight it, and my mother will always be the keeper of his soul. Well, I just want them to grow old together, to sit on the front porch of their home together, to laugh about how my sister was the far more responsible child; to reminisce of how much we’ve grown.
You’ve still got to marry me and my wife, and you’ve still got to walk your daughter down the isle and give her to a man that you trust enough to take care of your little girl. You’ve got to see the smile on her face when she sees the smile on mom’s face when she sees the smile on your face as you give away your world. We’re all riding our tricycles, bicycles through these streets and we’re all gradually letting go. I know it doesn’t make it any easier, but you are not the failure that your parent’s were and I’d have never learned to ride on my own.
Well, how frail are these bodies! (And with your hand turned against me…) We blossom like a flower and then whither in the winter and like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. If I hold my head high, you hunt me like a lion, and even if I try, I can’t feel you when you say that you’re near. My days fly faster than the weaver’s shuttle, and they end without hope. You, my lucky man, have been privileged to joy and cope in the same suffering your savior claims he knows! And who are you to challenge your creator? Surely resentment destroys the fool, and have you ever commanded the morning into daylight’s transition into evening’s cool?
All I know is that we’re all houses that someone crafted for a reason. Some of our paint is chipping, and we weather with the seasons, but all of us branches are prone to decay, so was it an honorable man or a cruel hand that made us this way? I am a house that creaks and groans, and all of my bones shake. I’ve got a cornerstone that I call my own, but I stumble on it every day, and the one that makes me a home, the builders rejected and threw away. On some days, I am tempted to follow suit and uproot my faith.
You built up your identity as a failure, gave ear to demons, legions, screaming, “Some father you are! Some husband! Some friend! Some pastor! Some man! Some lover! Some Christian! Some brother! Some son! Some change that you turned out to be in the end!”
Just look at the work of your hands! (Left dead to survey the damage.) I wanted to paint the picture as detailed as the devil did with those four white walls as his canvas.
But I finally believe that God is going to heal my dad! And it took a long, long time to get here, but I’ve heard rumors of rest for the heavy-laden, and you do not have a savior unable to sympathize with your weaknesses. There are liars inside your mind that you lay claim to control your life, and there are monsters inside your heart that have dug in their talons and become a part of you; but there is mercy every morning, and to the burdened, there is rest, and that promise overwhelms the deepest bouts of doubt and consciousness.
All I want is for joy to replace to the pain inside those irises. And all my dad wants is to ride his bike again! The one with the basket on the back that I sat in as a kid, and we’d ride by the fire stations and the firemen would blare the sirens for me from their fire trucks, and I would know what it was to trust and practice faith like a child! Do you remember what it is to become as a child?
I know you’re ready to go home, but if you could withstand the tests of time, oh, Job will sing out in the choir that we are the blink of an eye, pleading: there is rest! And this is not who you are, the way the light is not characterized by shadow, the dark, or the depth of his scars, saying: “Oh my pain is significant, but it did not make me savior, in resurrection you are made in the image and likeness of your creator.” Be joy! And may it be for the glory of the Lord, because, God if there is a point to this, I don’t see it anymore. But I believe in sovereignty – in something bigger than you and me and history and the way these generational curses seem to rip apart at the seams of our family.
Oh my God, be rest. Where is the rest?
I saw a shining star rising from the East. I thought: maybe, maybe, maybe it was coming for me. Mother Mary held her belly and the Father was pleased. Baby Jesus I hear you crying for me. Mother Mary don’t you know that you were never on your own? Father Joseph when you dream, I am Comfort. Comforting. It’s only me. Baby Jesus when you’re scared, I am always, always there. Daddy, please. Take this cup from me.
Little John is gonna turn the hearts of fathers to their children! And from the moment he kicked inside of Elizabeth’s stomach I knew I was too frail to stomach this: what a jump from heaven to come down here for me! I pray to God my soul to keep me safe for eternity! Don’t be frightened, Mary! I know it’s a lot to carry but I have been preparing you for the coming of the Lord -
“I wonder what this child will turn out to be.” And I can just hear so many people singing, “Nothing.” I’ve had an epiphany: “Let’s kill all the children to be certain that we’ve killed him” But I’ve got a lot of children’s books that don’t mention killing children… I think we watered down the stories so they’ll taste better with the wine. We are a sleeping giant, but the Lord will wake us up in time… so Prophet of the Most High! The prophecy is nearly nigh, and I’m singing with the shepherds and the angels and the saints on the birth-night! “Glory be to heaven high! And peace on earth to all those in whom God delights!”
I offered you gold and incense, would you take it as a sacrifice? And like Simeon I will not die till I have seen the Messiah with my own eyes… well I’ve seen him with my own eyes!
So Mother Mary, don’t you know that you are never on your own? And Father Joseph can’t you see that Mother Mary trusted me? And baby Jesus, when you’re scared… I am there! I am there!
Here he is! Here he is! I am the voice shouting in the wilderness! Make straight a road for him… (“And people, meet your salvation.”) But I am not worthy enough to hold your sandals! So when you tell me that you love me, I’m just trying to get a handle on the fact that I can slip my fingers through your palms (and realize that you were right all along).
“The captives will be released and the blind will see, and the oppressors will set the downtrodden free.” “Physician, I need help, and can you help me? I am willing…” “Be clean” and I watched the leprosy leave!
So I stood and said, “Master, can you heal me? He said, “Your sins are forgiven!” They said, “That’s blasphemy!” But my Jesus is a revolutionary – so after that, he gave me back my legs and my feet and I ran around screaming, “Praise be the Majesty!”
God bless those who realize their need for him, for the kingdom of heaven is given to them. And bless the mourning, for you with be comforted. Bless the gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them – and hunger and thirst for justice, for I promise it will be given. And God bless the merciful, for you will be shown mercy, and God bless the pure in heart, for I will show you Me. And to those of you that work for peace, I will call you my own! And to those of you that hurt for me, my heaven will be your home! I will be rejected, but I will never be dethroned, so let the sorrows and the sadness and the victory be foretold.
FLASH BACK: A few minutes just before the kiss! Judas! Do you remember back when I healed Lazarus and the people rejoiced and screamed and he was set free? Thank you for sharing in that memory with me!
FLASH BACK: In-between the times you’ve betrayed me! Peter! Do you remember walking out on the sea? I promise one day you’re going to learn to trust me… It was scary at first but we laughed once we got to safety – thank you for sharing in that memory with me!
FLASH BACK: Just before the crack of the whip hits and tears the rest of my skin off of my back and chest! My friends! Do you remember the five loaves and two fish? Do you remember my compassion on those of them that were sick? Do you remember blessing it and thanking God with the least of these? Thank you for sharing in that memory with me!
FLASH BACK: Just before the crow of thorns on my head. Do you remember laughing around the table, breaking bread… Sharing wine! Do you remember what I said? Well this is poured out to forgive the sins of many… Thank you for sharing in that memory with me!
FLASH BACK: just before I take my last breath! Before I close my eyes and God turns his head and I lose the will to live and the strength in my legs and my heart breaks and thunder strikes and I am left for dead… My Bride! Do you remember your first love and the feelings you had for me? Do you remember our long talks and the way that you wept with me? Do you remember our long walks and the way that you stepped with me? Do you remember the silence and the way that we’d listen to the wonder I created… and you’re eyes used to glisten like the stars… I’m just kind of wondering where you are… the times you spend with me are far and in-between – I miss you.
PLEASE! WON’T YOU COME AND MAKE MORE MEMORIES WITH ME?
I’m here with you, be here with me! I want to hold you and I want you to see that that cross you took up to follow me isn’t dead and I am not another empty fleeting thing. The stone is rolled away and I’m awake and I breathe. Stick your fingers through my hands if it helps you believe – not my will but Yours through the steps I take with these feet… make this triumph our memory as we sing and we scream:
SURRENDER IS DIFFICULT, BUT VICTORY IS SO SWEET!
I saw a shining star rising from the east, I thought, maybe, maybe, maybe it was comin’ for me…
A hobby in the summer of 2009 marked the beginning of Levi's touring career, when a group of friends invited him to hop in their van for a tour of the West Coast. In autumn of that year, he released his first full-length spoken word album, Werewolves. It was recorded in a friend's bedroom with a handkerchief rubber-banded to the bottom of a blown out styrofoam cup for a pop filter. Werewolves was the epitome of what Levi became known for - a raw, unapologetic exploration of what it would look like to unveil the deepest places of a person's heart for all to see. The debut, at it's truest, was an autobiography of the years that had led Levi to where he was. As it turned out, it was the biography of a vast number of other people, as well, who had finally found their thoughts, addictions, doubts and hopes articulated vicariously through another man's mouth.
I’ve missed you since you’ve been gone. I must confess, I am such a mess and these days just seem so long. I’ve been smoking way too much again now that you are gone, and I struggle with porn a little bit more as the loneliness wears on…
I can lie to myself all day long until I believe the corruption is tried and true, but just because I can appease my conscience doesn’t mean that my failures don’t affect you. And I know if you didn’t want honesty you wouldn’t be with me, but now that you know everything, am I everything you always wanted me to be?
Cause this city is laid out like a massive machine and up above the clouds I can see everything. When I look at her, and she looks at me – that glow of city streetlights… (I am crystal clean.)
I could have sat inside that coffee shop all day long and watched Grandma Death walk back and forth from the park to the Jack in the Box to the park to the Jack in the Box to the park to the Jack in the Box to the park to the broken down, boarded up shop and laugh (as long as I was laughing with you…) Well you are bundled up so tight and I can see that look (of wonderment) in your eyes as I take your hand and we step outside into that beautiful, cloudy Seattle sky and wonder where the sun went. I want to sit on the step outside your green apartment and try to explain what happens to my heart (when I see the city) it’s like a clean start AND I WANT TO DANCE WITH THE GOBLINS! and I want to dance with you… and I wanna remember what it was like on the nights that we missed each other again, like our love was new! (Like our love was real!) Like there was emotion in your voice when you told me you loved me and “I love you” was something that I could feel. And you’d kiss me like you meant that you’d miss me while you were gone, and I’d sing our favorite song… I’D BE THE VOICE IN YOUR DREAMS!
“Don’t stop calling, you’re the reason I love losing sleep.”
This city is laid out like a massive machine and it’s synched up so perfectly with all of my circuitry. I am not a complicated human being: I just want to be loved, and I just want you to love me! I JUST WANT TO FALL ASLEEP TO THE SOUND OF YOU BREATHING! (That melody is sweeter than their “Colly Strings”) But the static on the phone lines is getting worse and worse… (and I can’t hear either, no I can’t hear anything!)
This city is full of so many broken dreams and so many beautiful memories - - - 1,465 miles from Albuquerque to Salt Lake to Oregon to Seattle to Vivace’s Coffee (to the park by your place) 23 hours and 9 minutes on the interstate and if I start driving now I can make it in a day…
This city’s laid out like a broken machine (ALLY! ALLY!) Are you coming home for me? I’m sorry I haven’t written – it’s been a while since I’ve dreamed… It’s been a while since I’ve acted on my hopes for anything. (But I miss your kiss) and my favorite thing is when I can still taste the nicotine on your lips… could you tell me that you’re crazy about me and act like you mean it?
This city breaks me down like a massive machine and if there is no hope for me, then forget it, I’ll just leave! I’m hitting the road, I miss you so much when talk on the phone but my letters are so sparse, I just wanted you to know: NO MATTER HOW FAR I CHASE MY DREAMS, MY DREAM WILL ALWAYS BE YOU AND ME. (and I swear we’ll make a memory out of this solemn scene.) Would you have never loved at all or lost but loved completely?
WELL I LOVE YOU COMPLETELY! (and you love me enough to let me go)
Step out the front door, friends! Toss up my keys! From here on out we’re gonna do as we please! Just outside this substantially thickening window is a world Full of opportunities for me and you… and you and me. (But I fell into that same flawed fantasy that detaching myself from mommy’s bedtime stories and daddy singing me to sleep would be the key to setting me free.) Oh, you want out so bad now, baby girl, But just you wait and see how much you miss mom and dad once you finally get the chance to leave! I want to go home to my own bed tonight and sleep cuddle with my puppy (I miss my puppy!) I want to make believe that she is a girl sleeping next to me…like I used to when I was lonely… like I was lucky enough to have somebody there to keep me company when I woke up in the morning and hold me (but now I’m…)
Buried in the arms of someone else and missing mother’s. I miss the weathered hands of my dad while holding tightly to my lovers. And I call this: Free.
EIGHTEEN BABY! YOU WANT TO SEE MY I.D.? I’LL BUY MY OWN CIGARETTES! In fact, two packs please. Two packs for the two years I already ran myself broke, (O!) and two more for the two more I’m gonna count on these to cope. I’ll take two packs for the two days that I’m planning on being away, Smoke ‘em both the first so on the second I can give my lungs a break (or, at least that’s the plan anyway… oh my god! You’ve got a two-for-one on the 27’s?) You know, I think I’ll take two more just in case on that second day, when I wake, I decide to smoke all eight… OH! a captain and coke would go so nicely right now cause I’ve been drinkin a little to try to forget about the fact that I’ve been drinkin a little to try to forget about the fact that I’ve been drinkin a little to try to forget about the fact that I drank quite a bit, and actually forgot about the fact that I am down.
Funny how perspectives change so quickly when you’re the one with your head beneath the toilet seat, wearing that crown on your feet… and as I lift up my head from that bathroom sink I sink into the mirror and scream: “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!!!” and Paul said it perfectly, “I am the worst of these” but every now and then I swear I think I got that guy beat. I used to be such a fan of abstract poetry! But that quiet, clouded, kind of confusing painting went from diluted grayscale to vibrant honesty pretty quickly, and in fact, I’m a little sickly, and in fact I’m a little scared sometimes that this is all in vain, with a million of me running all over eternity it’s no wonder my hope has such a bad name! But I know, no matter how large a hypocrite, or how small my faith, WHEN YOU STARTED TO TALK ABOUT PERFECTION THE WAY YOU TALKED ABOUT MY PAIN You became the seed inside that gave root to change!
And I pray every day that there is power in prayer, and I hope with all my heart that my heart will find you there, and if you’re really bigger than my skepticism then how dare I compare the high I prescribe with the beauty you prepare?
I AM A SKELETON IN A LITTLE FRAGILE SKIN!
My God is only as big as I let him be and I am not gonna limit my God with my disbelief. My God has always, always been there for me and I am not gonna limit my God with uncertainty. I DON'T HAVE MUCH! (but it might amount to a mustard seed). I beg for miracles and then I breathe. I scream for signs and wonders and then my heart keeps its beat. But you've got to go through the fire to be refined - yeah! There's a huge sense of helplessness in a hopeless time... Well, I am yours and you are mine, and we are one in a kind. So sang the birds and the bees when I was not strong enough to sing anything; if you care and provide for the least of these, then how much more will you look over me? I don't have much, but it might amount to a mustard seed, and I've seen you move mountains and command the winds and waves of the seas on a whim so much smaller than me, singing: “God is bigger than the air I breathe; the world will leave. And God will save the day, and all with sing my glorious."
I love this rainy weather; it fills up my hollow bones just right. I love this rainy weather; the dripping sings me to sleep when I can't sleep at night. I love this rainy weather; it fills up my hollow bones just right. I love this rainy weather; I wish I could cry the way I see God cry...
CHRIST! the last time I saw you cry was Tuesday of last week, and I wasn't sure why, but the skies just kind of opened up and I sat there beneath it in a puddle of mud next to the memory of my favorite swing set, as a kid, and wondered if it was my fault that you were sad that day... and I wondered what I did. Jesus, the last time I saw you cry was in a dream I had late last night, and I held you tight against my bosom, and you wept until I was drenched and I said, "I'm so sorry, God! I'll never do that again!"
But the other day I met a girl who talked about love like she actually believed it was real. This child and I, we shared brief conversation about a few things that we thought we could feel. "Well, I don't mean to shatter your naiveté, darling, but you've so much yet to see, little girl..." And she shook her head and smiled like I was the one that was the child - she said, "Mister! Open up your eyes and I will show you the world!" I say, "People talk a whole lot about having a vice, well I've got three: insecurity, depression, and this growing anxiety..." She said, "Look, I don't mean to cut you off at the seams or one-up you or anything, but I drank way too much soda-pop as a child, and now I'm addicted to caffeine. Hehe. I mean, no, no, mister! I mean, you know that's not what I mean! I mean, at least you maintained your honesty!" "Little girl! You don't even know what I mean!" But the blind were born blind so that one day they could see, and unless you become as a child: unless you become like me, you're making excuses for yourself, Levi! You're holding onto reasons to stay angry!
So what did I used to write about in sixth grade when I sat against that fence and watched the world slip away? ...how me and my imaginary girl sat beneath that weeping willow tree and watched God's teardrops drip from the branches reaching out to me till we were anything but lonely... I love this rainy weather, it reminds me of being younger, back when I didn't worry... but I worry more than ever now, (and I can't stop pacing these hallways...)
And my biggest secret is that I don't have any secrets left, and I'd like at least one to hold onto so that I can still seem sexy and mysterious to you... I WANT TO BE EXCITED ABOUT CONCERTS AGAIN! I want to beg and scrape for the nickels and dimes and tell my parents that I'm gonna be fine; and no I'm not gonna jump in the pit... when everyone knows I'M GONNA JUMP IN THE PIT!!! (And no, mom, there is nothing violent about The Chariot.)
But next to the memory of my favorite swing set as a kid is a ghost of me, sitting next to me, wondering what he did. And as he lets the sand filter through his hands, it clumps in the puddle of tears he's sitting in, and we whisper in unison, "God I must've bummed you out again..."
I love this rainy weather, it reminds me of so many beautiful memories, and just like you said to me, "The times that I cry are the times that I feel the most. So if I find another secret to hide, you will never know. I want to feel like I can't maintain control and if I let it all out I'm gonna have to bear my soul... all I want is a hand to hold onto..." (no, no)
"ALL I WANT IS FOR YOU TO HEAL MY DAD'S BACK! WHY IS THAT SO HARD FOR YOU TO DO!" I HATE THIS RAINY WEATHER! (it reminds me of being a kid when I would trust without question) and aren't there so many questions? Why are there so many questions? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!
When she finds the magazines underneath her husband's side of the bed, she'll stand naked in front of the mirror for hours (... well what did you expect?). "Bang dumb blondes, sexy singles and busty brunettes..." I must not be as beautiful as the advertising says...
Miss, I saw your poster recently... I read your ad in one of Playboy's latest magazines, actually... I've fed every need that I believed photography could feed me. If you can believe me... I hate it. You are worth so much more than my brief moment of orgasm when I allow my mind to deceive me. I'd like to be an open book and it's hard to admit how I take advantage of the desires God gave me. But I don't want to sugarcoat this - I feel hopeless, trapped in brokenness - like I lost before I ever started racing. And I know as well as anybody, this is a difficult topic to be facing, and a difficult confession for me to be making but I'm stating that when God started the molding, shaping and creating - you were not designed to be the objects that men look at while masturbating.
Baby, never forget that you were made for relating and I'm sick of failing to realize exactly what it is that I'm saying... I apologize. It was never my intent to ruin lives, compromise, or feed these eyes something other than what was designed. I apologize. It was never my desire to downsize or objectify the beauty God designed to be wrapped tight until its proper time...
Sometimes, though... I feed my indecency. Kind of slide that magazine across the counter and do it quietly: shy my face away so that no one else can see... "Will that be all for you today, sir?"
"Yes ma'am, I'd like to pay to become the opposite of what I want to be."
I wish I'd have waited, dedicated to see the experience God had planned for me from the beginning. I am not patient enough to not give in to every sin forbidden to the hearts of men... since when am I patient enough to not give in? I just apologized five minutes ago! God! come on! what's going on? I'm sick of this! SOMEBODY PUT SOME CLOTHES ON - YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS! God's most beautiful creation and I'm sitting here euphoric like I have the right to destroy it just cause I don't have enough dedication to build a relationship with the one who can free me, so I resort to suffocation of my very foundations while claiming that I'm striving to meet the expectations of purity?
Jesus keep reassuring me, I'm yearning to be the entity that you desire me to be. Jesus keep reassuring her, the one in the centerfold, the picture I'll remember until I grow old. She is human; she is human, she is bought and sold to a million empty souls feeling so hopeless that they'll try anything to fill the hole.
I apologize. Please believe it's true. I never meant to hurt you.
BE THE CHANGE... said vipers! tigers! reassemble, rearrange! (I long to live as a lion so I violently tuff up my mane). Oh high king of heaven, my victory won!! (But I could still taste the soot in my lungs when that chorus was finally sung.) I called you so often, but you never came. I reached out to you! but you paid no attention, and as wisdom shouts out into the noisy streets I will cusp my ears tight in stubborn pretension. ("How terrible for you who lie awake at night, thinking up evil plans.")
BARREL LOADED!!! (to your brother...) Abel! run for cover! If you tilt, I tilt your world in my hands - take up my life with fraud and violence, and serpent I will meet your demands!
Bag lady, you know I heard you sing and (or rumor has it) you believed in me, and december's finally set me free (but Mary! I've forgotten just what it means to breathe). And as she held baby jesus so very closely (to her bosom, to her soul), I will cling tightly to my demons in the dark and imagine what it's like to be entirely whole.
Singers, did you feel the ground shake beneath you when your mustard seed fell deep in dark soil? But I called out "TORTURE!" amongst the scoffers (and though the ground is once more fertile) I recoil. As his mother's blood begins to boil, (and as we pollute god's lips with gin and oil), I've ne're witnessed such turmoil as when his heart reflected mine! (and, oh, on that note, my god died.)
Be the change! said mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, I come to you (the porno pauper) with understanding in my open hands and a tired knowledge in my eyes (if this beauty is so sacred, how does it sell so fast?) I still remember the first time I died (and oh so unknowingly gave it a second try). BUT LOVE IS PATIENT!!! LOVE IS KIND!!! and somewhere amongst this mishap I was allowed to survive.
Be the change, said angels, demons, reassemble, rearrange! I long to live as a lion so I study him studying me violently tuff up my mane.
If misery loves company (and isn’t that why you clung to me?) let’s all come together and we’ll a call it a church. Put a few people on pedestals and they can tell us why we hurt. And I will hold these people with such high esteem (o my god, if you fail, you fail the whole machine). Aren’t we all just wolves in sheep’s clothing? Shepherd, tend to your flock, but look out for the beast 'cause she’s a mean one, you see. She’s beautiful, she’s ugly, her lips taste like honey and she’s been eyeing you the way that she’s eyeing me.
But my costume is so clean! I finally tucked my claws inside these little feet and I’m standing so righteous and haughty! But I lost interest in your bride (that body) when I stopped recognizing the groom in the congregation. Ephesus! Where is that love? What it’s this uninviting, apprehensive sensation? And when did our relationship become exclusive? There is nothing new underneath that sun but I will not succumb to be recruited for the only army that shoots the wounded (I would rather be the wounded) - I AM THE WOUNDED! - SANCTUARY!
O, the church is a whore, but she’s still my mother (and I try to love her). God knows I love her! I am her.
Better to lose an arm or a leg (yeah)! Cast out anything that’s gonna cause you to fail again. If I wasn’t such a sucker for pain, I would’ve gouged out my eyes nine years ago, today. And no need to worry about me pointing out your flaws, I don’t have a speck in my eye, I’ve got a splintered log and I am not strong enough to cut it off (but I’m not trusting enough to hand someone else the saw). So it’s the blind disagreeing with the blind, about sight, and it’s the mute screaming at the deaf (with all his might) about wrong and right. “I’ve got a novel full of excuses about why I left the bride, and they’re all justified!” In broken penmanship and crooked lines: “I AM ENTIRELY BITTER INSIDE” and I need somebody wiser to differentiate between truths and lies. Pray my calloused heart beats steady. I’m pretty good at forgiving, but I’d like to start forgetting and I’m tired of the rats eating my harp strings. I miss the sound of her voice when she’d sing: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You. It’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the things I’ve made it. It’s all about You. It’s all about You, Jesus.”
The church may be a whore but she has a lot to teach me, and if love keeps no record of wrongs then I want to love completely. We all are whores, we are all lovers, and I am gonna love her. I am her.
When I was 6,6,6 years old I saw my first Goosebumps episode on Nickelodeon, and that stupid T.V. show made me so scared of werewolves that I was afraid to walk into the dark for months on end. I suppose nothing much has changed since then, except for now these monsters are personified within, and I go to sleep with them. And cuddle with them. And pretend that I’m 7,7, seven years old, once the fear had finally gone away, until I saw my father’s ghost inside my childhood home’s window panes, and some silent, shadowed matter followed me around the halls of my house when I was eight, so I’ve held onto the belief that there’s something dark lurking around my family to this day. I’ve used up all 999 lives so by the 10th time I die I’ll be right by your side, and we’ll both agree that we tried to land on out feet!
(Poor boy! I don’t even believe in demons!) I KNOW! I KNOW! Me neither, nobody believes in demons until they’ve seen them! And no I don’t smoke no ganga, and I'm not gonna smoke that ganga, because all of my friends already smoked enough ganga for two of my lifetimes and I fell apart while I watched them fall apart so I figure I’ve got enough falling apart in my system already…
And I’m scared for my family (and I’m scared the werewolves will keep attacking my dad). They’ve already bitten him up pretty bad, and the swelling’s spreading to my mom’s side of the bed… AND I’M THINKING HARD LATELY ABOUT GETTING SOME MEDS TO HELP CLEAR UP THIS DEPRESSION THAT’S CLOUDING MY HEAD! But those tiny little red and white and black and green and yellow and orange and blue pills scare me half to death.
When I was little, my mom hung and elephant on my wall and I had to pray to God that it wouldn’t eat me in my sleep! I’m a little older now and still learning what I think about my depressive tendencies but I know with all my heart that the same God that kept me alive then is the same one holds my hand when I’m weak, and gives me hugs when I weep. And I don’t want smoke to be the reason for my rock and roll, I don’t want substance to be the reason my body bleeds! “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…” but if you’d hold onto me I promise I’ll do my best to keep on trying to believe! “PRONE TO WANDER, LORD I FEEL IT! Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for your courts above.”
The other day I saw this teddy bear with a smile... do you still call me "Teddy Bear" from up there, 'cause I can still see you smiling... god, I would love to see that smile, and God, I am a little bit jealous of you, because I know you get to. I try to pray, every day, for her family, but sometimes (maybe even most of the time) I forget to. My little sister still cries so much sometimes when she thinks about how much she misses you. And I'm a little bit jealous of that too, you know? Cause I try so hard to lose all control and become as emotionally unstable as possible so that I can feel like I'm feeling release.
I remember the day I deleted your name from my phone. It was hard, and I tried so hard not to cry, but I kept on accidentally calling you too many times after you died cause I missed you, and in some unbelieving corner of my mind, I thought that you might be home.
And I cannot believe that this is happening. You know it's things like this that make me doubt God, but I know that you never did when I whispered him to you. My God, what am I supposed to do? I don't think you doubted him for a moment...
And if only we all had that faith, but I know so many of your friends that went straight to the bottle to take the pain away - AND AS I TAKE ANOTHER SWALLOW we are all collectively the same - I've got to keep myself inside this drunken state to make sure I remember your name when all other feeling floats away. The one thing that's haunting... the one thing that's haunting me are your daddy's eyes.
Do you remember standing outside of your sister's apartment? It was cold and it was nighttime and it was raining pretty hard: the perfect cliche for a first kiss in the dark! Flash back to me standing outside of your hospital door! Your daddy grabbed me by the shoulder - said, "Son, she loved you! and she missed you so much more than you know... and there's no going back now. Are you sure that you want this to be the last memory that you have of her?"
The one thing that's haunting... the one thing that's haunting is your daddy's smile, and the way that I still saw the pain in his eyes when I cried on his shoulder the same way that you used to cry on mine. Said, "I may not be strong enough to let you go, but I'm sure not so weak as to let you go without saying goodbye." Is this really goodbye? The one thing that's encouraging... the one thing that still gives me strength are your daddy's eyes, and the way that he maintained composure while the rest of us broke down and cried. How do you do that? He said, "Always remember her life."
So I will write my cheesy songs that you said you always liked, and I will live to radiate the life that poured out from your insides, and I will try to smile the way you smiled, you beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... beautiful child. And if ever I forget, I know that you loved me all the while... I saw a teddy bear the other day and it reminded me of you - o the end is heaven, and I know you are safe, and I can't wait to get to see you.
When I go to meet God I'm gonna have to be honest... I'm gonna have to tell the truth: not a day went by that I didn't doubt you.
You always said, "Don't grow up too fast, you're just a boy", but it's better to be in the house of sorrow than the house of joy, and if I could have a heart like David, that resembles yours, then what are the odds Solomon's sadness might have creeped in somewhere to even the score?
Dear Dad, do you remember when I was always sad? You and mom called it my "depressed year," and I know it was pretty bad. What drives a child to want to give up everything he has? What makes a person think that? What makes a mother's son decide that death is better than tomorrow? Inside of each and every breath that I "borrowed" I held onto the sorrow and thought: "I'll never be able to repay Jesus with the way I live" and now I'm thinking so much that I've screwed everything up and I don't even know if you exist, so I may as well not exist.
So when I come to meet you I'm gonna have to be honest. I'm going to tell the truth: not one day has gone by that I haven't doubted you.
But I never told you both that I almost killed myself. I did. I almost drove my car right off that highway bridge, and as I picked up pace, prayed to God that he'd forgive me if I went through with it: this is not a life worth living, I've already ruined it! Mom, dad, sister, friends, family - if I never see you again I hope you live out your lives happily. Give my dog a kiss of the lips and all of my writings go to Isaac - man, the one's about me and you are not meant to be kept in private. Make them your own and write your songs to inspire the world the way I wish that I did...
Sister, you're beautiful, don't ever let them take that away. Don't let yourself become just another face with no name. Get to know Isaac better, you two can collaborate (your voice is more beautiful than his has ever been, anyway).
Mom, I'm sorry the last time we talked, we fought... I'm just so sick of pretending to be somebody I'm not. And years down the line when I am all but forgot, you were my last thought.
And to finish the note before I get up to go, dad, I'm sorry I kept all this pain inside - this will hurt you more than anyone else. When I breathe my last I will pray that you can forget your past in all of this and try not to blame yourself...
I tried to find a reason to stay alive! I love you all so much... goodbye.
God I'm coming to meet you now! I suppose this decision doesn't display much trust, but if you are real and really out there then make me feel like I'm talking to something more than the ceiling!
Dear mom, I'm getting better at writing happier things - I know you'll never understand it but I'm attached to the sadness and it rings true when I sing, and there's a little bit of healing inside all of our suffering, as I have a savior that took up my suffering for me. And as I drove down I-40 to collide with 25, I swear to God something forgotten came alive to me inside, and this little memory sparked a reason to risk life one more night: on christmas morning I don't want my sister to wake up without her brother by her side! TEAR ME TO PIECES, MY SWEET SUICIDE! For to die is gain, and to live is Christ so I will make you the apple of my eye...
When I come to meet You, I'm going to come complete, as You have completed me. I'm going to come whole and I am begging to come happy.
Get started today before this once in a lifetime opportunity expires.
Wrote a lot of lyrics at that desk. 👆 Would love to write even more to you from it, as well. Let me send words your way?