Wednesday/Thursday, March 27-28, 2019
It’s a few minutes past 11 PM in Da Nang, Vietnam. And I’ve got two cans of beer atop this little table where I’ve been working the past two weeks. The lady is sleeping peacefully in the bed nearby and I’m listening to classical music in headphones from a livestream that’s being broadcast by a station in the Philadelphia area. I’m trying out this new font, a serif. Does it need to be capitalized? Should I refrain from mentioning the sex I just had?
I keep having these words, phrases and sentences repeating in my dome. Like, “Sometimes, you gotta piss in the sink.” And this morning, that rang true. We awoke at about 7:45, my girlfriend and I, and it wasn’t long before she was stroking my cock. I let her do it because the curtains were clutched to the never-ending lightness of everything. And I rode until I came. Which isn’t very good writing, I guess. But then, it’s 11:11.
So let’s all hope for some luck.
No, I’m kidding. This is really dogshit. And I’m scraping the bottom of my shoes. Even if I haven’t worn shoes for months.
After sex, she went out to the beach and I was able to get to work. Around 3 PM, I went out to meet her. Something very entertaining about being able to walk to the beach in a few minutes, each day, and buy two cans of beer for a little less than $1.50. By the way, the Vietnamese currency is called Dong.
I wanted to write, in this issue, about regeneration—since last week was, more or less, about extinction and the black mood that comes with innocent slaughter.
When I was at the beach with her, in my less than $1 beach chair, I broached the subject of going to Europe at the end of our visa here in Vietnam. She was usually the one to be laidback and nonchalant about planning shit. I was the opposite. I wanted to know, at all times, what we were up against.
To make it short (since I’m filling up this page), we got on the subject of how difficult it would be for a Chinese citizen to get a European visa … and later on, after taking turns swimming in the refreshing water, I showed her pictures of Sicily. She moaned about how beautiful it was. “I want to go there now!” she cried.
She stared into the abyss, not saying much.
I held her, saying, “Don’t think-a too much-a!” She laughed.
the library on Vine Street
I used to go there all the time
no matter the weather
if it was raining cats and piss, I took an umbrella
a harpsichord underneath my armpits played the tunes of
being alive, happy to be around the streets, whether they were gray or black or mauve or azure or penis-colored olive
I don’t know what the fuck that means but poetry is dumb and I’m trying my best here—the library on Vine Street meant a lot to me
and I went there when I was depressed, I went there when I was dull, I went there when I had a toothache
and I often went there
when I wasn’t getting
and I couldn’t get
I remember reading lots of books
and I remember the pretty librarians, but they were much more
they had harpsichords too
under their bosoms
and they wrote poems, secretly, and doodled
I watched the changing seasons there from the windows
I saw the homeless, the left-behind scoundrels with dirty
dreadlocks, toeless shoes, duct-taped and morose—
I saw it all and I smelled it too
going to certain sections when I felt a calling from a book or a subject, like Rimbaud, or astrophysics or evolutionary biology or cells or anatomy or Picasso, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, and vagabonds, derelicts, etc.
I envied them their originality
because I was basically nothing, just a sponge
a loser with false teeth and Gepetto-like tomfoolery, barely any ex-girlfriends to account for, I hardly mattered
but the books glorified an existence I no longer thought about, I just kept going because that’s what people did
and I did it in my own strange, peculiar way—avenues I discovered with random walking, indecisiveness and a lanky fingernail stuck up my butt, meaning
I needed to let go a little bit
I was too uptight
I thought about keeping a personal journal
I thought about the books, the people, hopeless and hopelessly
I gathered this data, or call it that—Hallelujah
I had nothing better to do
I was directing my own movie in my head
and the glinty light coming in from the upper windows
all across the second floor of the library on Vine Street
of some ancient creatures
flying or dying or eating or scattering their gonads
around the ancient Earth
where parts of North America were under water
and I looked out the windows up there
at the Logan Square fountain
ah, eternal bliss
caught in a moment
you make me feel whole again
and then I’d run, almost—out to the subway, darting
harpsichord ringing, silently
to help some kids, two of them
with their bikes stuck in the turnstiles, not enough money
to get home, giving it to them, helping them through
not saying anything about it
Will was supposed to be a writer. That’s what all the people around him kept saying. He had holed himself up in the corner room of a hotel up on the sixth floor. There was a view of the sea. It stretched out each morning. Will sat there with his hot coffee, thinking about what he should write.
His first published novel had been about his early childhood. There were wide margins of error in that one and he was glad that he had editors who were pockmarked, lonely, sexless and forgotten. That helped.
The book had been about a hundred or so pages. And Will agonized over the first, second and third drafts. Between drafts, he drank quite a bit. In fact, he drank while he wrote too. He drank in the mornings. As he overlooked the sea. Will was an alcoholic.
“That just means you’re writing well,” one of his much more successful writer friends told him. “Keep at it, Will. I really liked your first novel. It had guts, it had moxie. It had a lot of heart.”
“Oh, what the fuck do you know?” Will said, gutless and heartlessly from his sixth floor window, wearing a greasy wife-beater, smoking a Marlboro cigarette, drinking Red Bull and Black Label at 10:34 in the morning.
“Aren’t you working on your second novel?” His friend asked him, his name was Scott. “What’s it about?”
“It’s about…” Will trailed off, pulling back the blinds and envisioning a better world from his rose-colored smile. He needed a teeth-cleaning and he needed a girlfriend. And he needed to draft his next novel. He had a contract for three with a local publisher. His team of editors called each week, asking him what he had for the company. The bottom line was that Will had nothing to say. He was only good when he got drunk. When he wasn’t drunk, he was juvenile and repetitive. When he drank, he was illuminated with a newfound sense of creation. Sort of like when you had diarrhea or when you didn’t. Except not like that at all.
“Look, man,” Will spoke, letting the blinds drop in front of him, standing in a white bathrobe, drink in his hand, cigarette dangling from his own spittle, “your new book sucks. I read it. It was so bad I decided to use the pages as toilet paper.”
He hung up. He felt better.
Greedily, he placed the drink on his writing desk and quickly opened one of the bedroom windows. The light got in. But it was accidental. He flicked his cigarette, still burning, out into the world.
“Fuck you!” he cried. “You all latch on to something that can never be felt for real. It’s all in your imagination.”
There was a knock at the door. What the hell? Will thought. I hadn’t been yelling. I only said the last few sentences in my own head.
Will walked over to the door, opening it with his bathrobe open and his nutsack dangling.
There was a shriek.
It was his daughter.
He covered up.
“What the hell!”
“Aw, jeeze, angel. Come on. You know better to phone your old man before you get up here.”
She was covering her eyes. She was tall, smart, well put together. She was not as afraid of the world as her father was, and always would be.
“You look like shit!” she clamored from behind her fingers, opening them to look through the slits of darkness to see the man she had no choice but to call Her Father.
“Have you been writing?” she asked him briskly as she walked into the room carrying a little bag.
“What do you call that thing?” Will asked his daughter. He shut the door and walked back to his drink.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Oh, shit,” he responded, “you’re just like your mother.”
“Dad.” She stood there, astutely. “I’m tired of seeing you reckless, callous and jobless. I mean, where do you get all this money for your bad habits, anyway?”
“Why don’t you let me worry about that.” He lit up another cigarette, tossing the pack on his desk. “Whaddya got for me, daughter?”
“Oh, by the way. Mom knows I’m here, I told her I was coming to see you.”
“Damn it.” He pounded his fist on the writing desk, right near his laptop. His daughter shuddered, somewhat. “I mean,” he said, dragging on his cigarette, pulling it out of his mouth and blowing a cloud of smoke, “how’s she doing?”
“Still hates you,” said his daughter, waving her free hand in front of her face. “Albeit, you kind of deserve it.”
“The hell I do!” Will raised his hand in the air. The other held his drink. Which was getting low. “You see all this?” He motioned to his sixth floor hotel room overlooking the city. “You think this all came from her? Well.” He paused, dragging, tapping the ashes onto the floor. “It didn’t. I taught myself how to write. I wrote for years. And I waited. I got the right agent. And he got me a good book deal with a sexy advance.”
“Sexy?” His daughter interjected.
“Dad, this place looks like…”
“And all she wants to do is tear it down!” he hollered.
She sighed, his daughter. She was much smarter than him. She waited to evaluate her emotions before she spoke. Her father, on the other hand, wore his heart on his sleeve. Along with his spittle, germs, cigarette ashes, beer, and the lipstick of other women. “Dad, you spent your book advance on prostitutes, drugs, alcohol and a shitty new suit that you never wear. And never will. I mean, Jesus. Do you really think you’re going to stay afloat living like this?”
She looked around again, eyebrows raised. She looked exactly like her mother. Well-organized, neat and tidy. Her hair was well-combed, earrings shiny, heart aglow.
“Come on,” Will said, placing his drink down on the desk. “You know you’re my daughter too.” He went over to her, arms outstretched.
“Ew, dad. Gross.” She held her arms out in front of her, Angel did. “You smell like you haven’t showered in three weeks.”
Will stopped himself. His own daughter wanted nothing to do with him. He felt empty and crestfallen, betrothed to be a nothing burger, turd sandwich, wilted, limp and half-drunk. “Honey,” he said, picking up his drink again, chugging it. Then he fell to the floor, eyes rolling back in his skull. Almost without a sound.
Angel rolled her eyes.
“You always pass out,” she said to herself, “when you get too much sunlight.”
What she meant by that is that her father was a terrible writer. And he got drunk because he couldn’t deal with the regular, mundane problems of life. And living it. He didn’t live. He acted like a prisoner in his own life and mind.
“You’re pathetic,” she said to him nearly lifeless on the floor. She dropped a manila envelope on her father’s writing desk. It was the manuscript for his next novel.
She walked out without saying a word.
Her father opened one of his eyes. Then, gradually, he opened both of them. The carpet was dull, dark blue, drained, useless. He rose in place and wiped himself off. Fixing himself another drink with some Red Bull and Black Label, he went to the laptop and put on some music.
“That’s right!” he yelled at the ceiling. “These bitches are gonna love my new shit!”
He raised the glass to his lips. There were pills on the desk, cocaine powder too. Plastic bags of weed, peyote, ecstasy, and the numbers of three female escort services.
“Woo!” He yelled again. “VEGAS!”
Outside, his daughter had the real copy of the manuscript. She’d only given her father three hundred pages of gibberish. She was that good. She could write one good novel and one bad one. She’d lined up three meetings with three different literary agents. She’d fly to New York, L.A., wherever she had to—in order to make a name for herself. She was willing to put in the work. While her father popped a few Valium to get to sleep. She wondered how long it would take before he realized the script she’d left him was one she wrote about how shitty of a writer and father he was. She had copies of that one too. Plenty of them, in fact.
She smiled as she tore off across the desert parking lot, a wad of twenties in her purse.
“What kind of fucking moron keeps his money out like that. Jesus,” she said, speeding up. “Why the hell was I born?”
when I landed in Italy
when I landed in Italy, I saw the afterglow of yesterday
I had the future in front of me and it was raining
and even though it was raining, I still felt good about everything
the red roofs and the green bushes, trees, grass—it all felt like I was entering into something new
but I also had the sense that I’d been there before
and I felt that way, a few weeks later
with a bottle of cheap wine under my shirt
running away from the mascots of a forgotten faith
eating a cheese and Italian meat sandwich
on the curb out front of the church
people passing me by
wondering if I was going to throw my trash away
in the right containers
“damn,” I said, “these people really care about their
and I wiped my hands, walking away
unable to read the graffiti, not understanding the signs of the local shops either, too afraid to go into the stores
and ask for what I wanted
but that first day meant everything to me, landing
on the runway, feeling the old times of my ancestors
somewhere in the marrow of my bones
Italian and aged, I’d drink their wines, eat their cheeses, try their breads and desserts and I’d have plenty of their beer—
writing each night on the second floor
about epiphanies and finding myself, anew
in Italy―just outside Rome, about 45 minutes, of all
places, it felt surreal
and the women were beautiful
as each day after working and teaching, I went out to catch the sun in my eyes, riding on the bus to the beach for a gelato and a stupid smile that would never go away— and it still
hasn’t! thinking spaghetti, wine, red sauce, fish, hard coins, mosquitoes, the language, coffee, long walks, palm trees, love and long fights, subway rides, buses, getting lost, the Colosseum on a Friday night…
it was all so very
traveling these last few months
I was afraid when I was in Italy alone and I didn’t know anyone
I got acquainted with that sense of uncertainty, welcoming the future—unknown
I stayed with an Italian couple who were madly in love with each other, and they laughed in the mornings, all throughout the afternoon and into the evening
too many mornings unencumbered by others—I felt good about traveling alone
when I left on a whim to Krabi, Thailand
I’d never heard of that place but I landed in Asia in a daze
beer and working all day and night for a week
before visiting a temple and climbing 1,000 steps to see everywhere and in all directions, it was a steaming heat and I rang a bell for one of my friends who was thousands of miles away drinking whiskey alone
then I went to Chiang Mai where I met a beautiful Chinese girl who knocked on my door one night when I was teaching classes online, she’d just come from Nepal and she needed a laptop to get a visa for India—we are still together today, went to Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the coast, too—Sihanoukville, an island off the coast, and Siem Reap
she left for China
and I went to Bali, staying there for three weeks: Kuta, Ubud and Seminyak, drinking beers every night, painting, writing poems
and a travel journal where I fought the enemy inside of me, kicking him in the nuts, pushing forward
I went to New Zealand where the sun rips through the ozone
and I saw some fucking mountains and lakes and much open space
inside of me
I didn’t feel so
riding back to Australia, seeing the coastline, the windsurfers
the golden sunlight there was effervescent and strong
it sang out a beautiful melody as the plane tilted off the runway
and I was heading on an eight-hour flight to south Vietnam—
nobody spoke English there, where I stayed for the night
but that didn’t matter much
in the morning
the sun came up and from the sixth floor window
I watched it burning
in the sky
back to Da Nang
to see her again, finishing months of travel: a notebook I filled with words, a book, short, from outside of Rome and inside of it too, and a book of poems from Cambodia to Bali to New Zealand, and two books, short, about her—the light in her eyes and everything else
and even though she’s pooping now, it’s still romantic somehow
riding this long wave in my mind, unafraid of