The Eyes of God

Excuse me, we asked the blind man.  You are otherwise young, in the prime of health, and it appears that you once could see.  How is it that you are blind?

Ah, he said, with a weary expression.  Indeed I am.  But in fact, I once had the eyes of god.

How is that?

I was once given the eyes of god, through fervent wish and endless prayer.

But the eyes of god are surely not blind?

No, they are not, of course.  The eyes of god are all-seeing, omnipotent.  That is what you think are the eyes of god, yes?

Yes.

What you do not realize is that because the eyes of god are all-seeing and omnipotent, they are constantly in tears.  It is why I had to gouge them out.  I could not bear to see the world through the eyes of god.

The Pursuit

At night, you look up at the sky.  Your heart leaps out and back into your chest, aflame above the simmering, ever-present burn in your stomach.  I’m so hungry, you think.  This hunger will not let me rest.  In the glittering sky, the stars look like jewels strewn on and over an undulating plain.  There is something there on the other side, and you hear its faint whispers in the wind.  

The village wise man says, there is a legend of a treasure that will cure your hunger, a fruit that will make you never again hunger, this discontent by another name.  

It is in the lands far away.  No one has ever seen it, no one has ever ventured so far.  All those who have left the village have never been heard from again.  It will be foolhardy and brash.  It will be unheard of and rash to go. 

But you go anyway.  

You are on the road, leaving everything you’ve ever known.  Along the way, there is scarce nourishment.  You eat the barks off trees and live on dew.  There are roots that pulse with something deep beneath the earth, which are filling when you can find them.  In your mind, you dream of the fruit that will make you never hungry again.  It spurs you forward. 

Around the bend you startle, because before you on the bridge is a demon, the most terrifying monster you’ve ever seen, a wolf, ogre, succubus.  A patrol on the bridge that you must cross.  It reeks of blood and death.  For a moment you startle and hesitate, your mind flickers and pulls against your heart and hunger.  You’ll be torn to pieces.  

And yet.  What fate is worse than starving slowly to death?  You will wither away, you think.  Instead, you stand up straight, and in that moment’s courage the demon sees you standing there, erect.  You have one way to go, and you stride with purpose, and seeing you, the demon’s menace drains.  You stare it in the eyes, and it looks away and you cross the bridge unscathed. 

You are growing famished and drag your feet.  But ahead are the spires of a mountain city, a more glorious sight than you have ever seen.  It looks prosperous and full, and surely you will find some food and shelter there.  Your heart leaps in joy and your hunger is suppressed for now. 

But this is not a city of warm hearths and friends.  This is a city that has grown old and fat in their own abundance, and you hear insolent whispers about your skeletal appearance.  Their bellies cascade with rolls as they sit around, their servants and slaves more plump than you.  You, whose skin has been stretched across your jaws and your fingers, realize now that they are shaming your name, that this is a city where you will not stop, where you will not find rest or drink or shelter, that stopping here will cause you to also grow old and fat and live out the rest of your days. 

Confidently now you stride, your hunger so deafening you do not hear the crowds’ titters and trifling nothings.  My hunger cripples me, but it also leads the way, you think. 

The city opens up to a mountain pass, bleak and forbidding.  The clouds are clenched and on the verge of being black.  You look up to an explosion as a storm begins to roil.  With neither mercy nor malice, the winds shriek like banshees, battering you off the path, almost to your death below.  You clutch yourself and crawl forward by inches.  Then the hail comes, battering your head.  The storm will not relent, it is terrible in its apathy, in its pure indifference, and you look back and see a sunny meadow in the distance. 

You think, will I roll with these waves of indifference?  Do I turn back now, because the way forward is more difficult and forbidding than I ever imagined?  I will surely be forgiven, for I have proceeded further than I ever believed possible. 

Or will my heart beat and hunger be the crosswise force, the thing unlike the others, the beating heart in the midst of these winds, cold and dead and terrible?

Then in the midst of the storm, another rumbling. 

But you realize this is the sound of your hunger.  And it, only it, spurs you forward, because you will not accept your fate.

Now your steps quicken because you see the peak, where the treasure lies.  You expected angels and light, but instead it is dark and unassuming, craggy peaks with withered trees. 

Could it be? 

There, in the distance, you see little drops of what look like light hanging from the wizened branches.  This is it. 

In your excitement you do not see until you almost stumble over him, a man who sits beside the pass. 

Where are you going, he asks. 

You look at him, this strange man.  He looks young, but his eyes shine a strange light, and his body is feeble as he leans against the rocks. 

I’m going to eat this fruit, this treasure that makes you never hungry again. 

The man gives you a weak smile.  I recommend against it.  

Thinking this is some sort of test, your mind races.  If this is one of the challenges, it is the most confusing one yet. 

I must.  My hunger is deathly, it causes me to suffocate. 

He is short of breath.  You came across the plains, did you not? 

Yes, I did. 

You terrified the demons with your strength. 

I did. 

You passed through the village without dying there. 

I did. 

You made it through the storm. 

I did. 

How? 

How? 

How. 

Because I sought the fruit.  To never be hungry again. 

The man shakes his head. 

You get impatient and take a step forward as he speaks again.  The treasure you sought, did you ever have it? 

The fruit?  No.  It’s there.  You begin to scowl.   

No, he shakes his head.  What helped you get here was your hunger.  Your hunger is the gift.  It’s the treasure.  Why would you want to get rid of it? 

He slumps back, as if from the effort.  It’s better to be hungry than full.  Take it from me, he says feebly again.  

You look at him.  You blink and hear the abrasive winds.  You look back down the mountain.  You have faced your demons, you have forded wild streams, you have faced down the insolent mob of strangers, the shrieking hue and cry.  You have been bold and with conviction, you have defeated plights that would cause others to succumb. 

You have overcome. 

Suddenly the hunger flares up again within you.  It feels warm, and fills you with light.  There is a path that leads past the grove and into the wider world, one you have never explored. 

That’s right, you think.  Your hunger is your strength.  That is the gift. 

To My Bold Girl

Dream big, my daughter, aim higher.

I won’t always be there when you falter,
but still, go boldly farther and further.
Alone you’ll cross the treacherous waters,
alone you’ll face the crowd’s insolent whispers.

You’ll see that before it gets light it gets darker,
and you’ll find, sometimes, that you’re your own savior.

You’ll see that it’s hard to cap your endurance,
and your fears don’t sum to their appearance.

Compared to how you first thought it, the world
is both smaller and larger, and there will
always be more to explore and discover.

Love always, and always with you, your father.

My Guide My Soul My Shepherd

The moon is my guide my soul my shepherd.

The air was thin and cold, my heart was big and bold, when I packed my bags to leave my home.

I followed the spring, a brush and tumble with love, and wet with the taste, thought it was all and it was all enough.

Staking it all, I lost it all, and I took what I could to hit the road, dreaming about the warm lights and hearths of home.  There the lights would glow, just like the moon I know, my guide my soul my shepherd.

Under the torrid sun, and endless din of work, I lost my youth but gained a place, for I shared bread with princes, merchants, and rogues.

My bags grew heavy as I grew old, my legs grew weak and slow.  I paused a while, and it was quiet dark, and cold.

I emptied my bags by the light of the moon, my guide my soul my shepherd.

To whom do I owe these memories of laughter, love, and life?  To whom do I owe the ones of shame, regret, and bile?

Do I need these things, these things that compose the measure of my being?  These stories of evil and schemery, these stories of strength and hope?

I took them out and chose, and chose to leave some there, under the light of the moon, next to my glowing home, by the side of a snowy road.

I chose to explore, under the light of the moon, my guide my soul my shepherd.

Young in LA (Part II)

Mia: Maybe I’m not good enough!

Sebastian: Yes, you are.

Mia: Maybe I’m not!  It’s like a pipe dream.

Sebastian: This is the dream!  It’s conflict and it’s compromise and it’s very, very exciting!

La La Land

During the days, you’ll strive and sweat and cry.  During the nights, you’ll look out the window of your apartment or car and see the indigo darkness draped over the hills, the street lamps glowing in adagio.  They’ll look like souls huddled in fervent prayer.  Your dreams.

But here’s the thing.  The dreams dreamed in the City of Dreams, are tricky.  The City of Dreams is an illusion, a mirage in the desert.

What you dreamed of at 22, will come true.

And having what you once wanted, you’ll look back, your youth spent.  You’ll think back on the City of Dreams, the feeling of being young and hungry, and every so often a desert wind will evoke false memories of bittersweet paths taken if not for a single gesture, word, or action, and you’ll wonder where the time went. 

And you’ll wonder if what you got, was what you really wanted.

Or if you’d be happier young, having nothing but dreams again.

Fathers

It is summer.  He moves his tusks, snorting in the mud, speared out of a delightful nap.  He grits his teeth, snaps behind him.

The older beast is deft, dodges the wild slash of his son’s deadly horns, and drives his tusks in again, safely out of reach.  And again.

He grunts and snorts, watching his father through vengeful eyes, feeling blood pound as it courses through his veins.

Every day he is stronger.  And he takes solace in that fact, in the gnarled growth of his sinews, in his strength.

The daily nudging is a reminder that he is not yet a master of his fate, that in the eyes of the world, he is still prey, that he is still young.

He bristles and snorts and feels his own hot breath, but moves sullenly, slowed by the curdled rage of youth.


He remembers this as he watches his own sleeping boy.

His child, his creation, so beautiful.  So beautiful, but he knows the boy is still defenseless against the predators of the night.  Reflexes still unsharpened, movement unrefined, muscles not completely knit.

And for this, they must move or die.

He knows the next part will break his heart, but he lifts his tusks anyway.  There.  He nudges, and nudges so that the little one will go forth into the world, nudging even though he is nudging his baby away from him, nudging even though he knows it fills the little one with annoyance, annoyance that will soon evolve to rage, nudging even though he knows it pushes the boy away, and it will eventually alienate them from each other. He nudges because he must.

He remembers his father’s tusks.  He has wondered if they were really as piercing as he remembered.  Maybe not.  After all, it must have been filled with love.

Waves of Indifference

Manhattan Beach

This was a while ago during a year of heartbreak.

During that year, I spent a lot of time in the water.  I took a board out and sat in the middle of the sea, watching waves and getting battered by them in all sorts of conditions.

I went when it was completely flat and would bob on the water, and I went when it was choppy and would fall off every few seconds, and I went in early morning and at dusk and in 40 degree water until my fingers turned into claws, and I surfed with the dolphins and sea lions and red tide and the jellyfish.

I would sit there and look into the horizon for the one who was far away – who had gone away, and sometimes the sun would come out and break into a million pieces on the water, like an emerald hacienda, and sometimes the fog would be so thick that you couldn’t see the waves coming in except as darker fog in the distance, and you couldn’t tell where the water started and the sky began, and it felt like you were somewhere high in the clouds and angels were around you, as the water lapped gently at your board.

Sometimes it was bright, and the waves crested with white plumes, and other times when it was cloudy the waves when they opened up looked like giant maws full of death and destruction, and they closed on your head like thundering bombs.

Being heartbroken made me susceptible to faulty logic, and I reasoned that the more of these impossible waves I caught, the more worthy I was, and I would stay even during choppy conditions until I had satisfied my quota, and then would walk back in thinking I had passed a test.

I would surf in the messiest and unrelenting of conditions, waves coming in bruised and sickening colors, crashing and surging, white plumes cresting above them as they peaked, before thundering with complete and utter indifference.

Sometimes I would get caught by a rogue wave that unfurled above and smashed me into the sand, and withdrew with such force I was sucked into the water again.  Flailing in the freezing water, so cold my breath was drawn out, in these times I could think of only one thing, which was that there was no malice in the water, nothing that cared enough to hate.  The only feeling that the water was a force of nature, above and beyond anything in human experience and in the face of which we are just a speck of dust.  Only by its endless grace are we allowed to enter it, fish it, surf it.

I was looking for answers out there, but there were none.  The waves were apathetic.  And I didn’t solve any problems.  They were just made insignificant.

The Breakup

It’s always ugly. 

They both knew it was over.

But, he couldn’t just let it go like this.  His ego shattered, time wasted, a part of his life – gone.

In her life, ultimately, it was as if he hadn’t existed.  He needed something, a piece of her.  Or better yet, to leave his mark.

So he made her cry.  He said savage things, half-true, ugly accusations.  He made blame rain down on her, drench her, cover her.  He called up bittersweet memories, detonating horrific and cloying images in front of their eyes.

He conjured up anything he could to manipulate her into feeling regret – and perhaps guilt – that perhaps it really was her fault.  That perhaps he really was the noble one, the one who would have wanted to keep trying when she didn’t.

An hour-long tirade, and he did everything he could to permanently embed himself into her memories.

She must be made to cry.  If she cried, then she was feeling regret and guilt.  If she felt regret, then he had succeeded.  Then he could leave, having made his mark.  And then, perhaps, he could perversely remain in her heart as a permanent burr, a tattoo.

She cried.

I’ve won, he thought.

They said goodbye.  She closed the door.

What he didn’t know was that her tears were not tears of regret.

They were tears of ablution, to purge herself of the guilt of not feeling very guilty or sorry at all.

This is the Ending of the Most Beautiful Love Poem Ever Written.

 

Even now
The night is full of silver straws of rain,
And I will send my soul to see your body
This last poor time.  I stand beside your bed;
Your shadowed head lies leaving a bright space
Upon the pillow empty, your sorrowful arm
Holds from your side and clasps not anything.
There is no covering upon you.

Even now
I think your feet seek mine to comfort them.
There is some dream about you even now
Which I’ll not hear at waking.  Weep not at dawn,
Though day brings wearily your daily loss
And all the light is hateful.  Now is it time
To bring my soul away.

Even now
I mind that I went round with men and women,
And underneath their brows, deep in their eyes,
I saw their souls, which go slipping aside
In swarms before the pleasure of my mind;
The world was like a flight of birds, shadow or flame
Which I saw pass above the engraven hills.
Yet was there never one like to my girl.

Even now
Death I take up as consolation.
Nay, were I free as the condor with his wings
Or old kings throned on violet ivory,
Night would not come without beds of green floss
And never a bed without my bright darling.
It is most fit that you strike now, black guards,
And let this fountain out before the dawn.

Even now
I know that I have savoured the hot taste of life
Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
Just for a small and a forgotten time
I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
The whitest pouring of eternal light.
The heavy knife.  As to a gala day.

Black Marigolds, Chauras
1st Century.

The Most Important Thing (The End)

Ten years!  Ten years passed, and I thought I had left everything behind, embalming all these memories, leaving well enough alone.

But on the plane, I picked up a newspaper.  The second page had a picture of you in it.

I could only half make out the text, so I asked a stewardess what it meant.

This person, she pointed out, was taking over her father’s company.  Her father’s company owned buildings and hotels and offices, a huge portfolio of the same buildings where we had once laughed and played.  Your father’s company, now your company, was a subsidiary of one of Korea’s biggest global conglomerates.

As the plane descended into the city, time and space warped and swept through me again.

I knew enough about Korean corporate culture and succession, that for this, you had to have been groomed.  But starting when?  From a young age?  Had you grown up with chauffeurs and maids, attending school on scholarships?

Those men you got into cars with, had they been drivers in jackets, these men with whom I had accused you of cheating?  Had you been thinking of this fate, all laid out for you, when you first disappeared and you reappeared again, that night we drank with Yong and Moon and Katherine?

Had you been thinking of its consequences, of this fate, every time you bit your lip or creased your eyebrows when I asked you what you were going to do after graduating?

You had to have been thinking of these things every time I asked you about what your family did and you played dumb, saying it had something to do with real estate.

Whenever I asked you where your house was, you refused, saying that it was scandalous for me to know, and whenever I said let’s meet at one of those department stores managed by your father, you started talking about that one very bad experience of customer service, making faces, saying that it had just been bad, so bad, that you would never go there again.

 

But surely, you had considered this life, spread out before you like a banquet, that night in Chuncheon where having drunk profusely, we stood under that full moon huge above the mountains, as if ready to be plucked right out and eaten piece by piece, where the dark valley spread out before us, gaping and vast, over a frozen river that clink clinked and echoed throughout when we threw rocks down on it, where the snow whispering under us was the only other sound.

It was that night we talked until the words themselves changed meaning, forming stars streaming across a new perfect world, when we discovered that we had been looking in exactly the same direction.

That night we covered each other with down and rolled together, and when I touched your face you curled up beside me, because it was so, so cold, and there was the landscape of your neck, alabaster sheen, and we moved together in the stillness, with slight sounds, like lotus leaves dropping slowly from the ceiling, and I laid you down on the bed, light lapping over your body as I held your thighs until they opened and something broke between us and we flowed and cried and laughed, and then we held each other and were brushed with dark fingers, fronds of a plant that grows only in the night.

That night of my mistake, that night when I hesitated, when right before the dawn shot over the hills, you looked at me soberly, from the other side of the fog, directly into my eyes, with your own eyes full of fear and watery courage and said with vicious calm:

Tell me to come with you.

You looked directly into my eyes and whispered, tell me, tell me that.

And I didn’t.


What is love? 

Courage, you said.