life, poetry

The Last Post

Dear Readers,

After 4 years and 150+ posts I’ve decided, with a heavy, tar-clogged heart, to end my run as a regular contributor for Hijacked Amygdala.

Recently I’ve had some big changes in my life and I’ve had to redirect my (already limited) energies, which sadly means giving up my Friday spot here at HA.

Thank you all so much for reading my work (the good, the bad, and the ugly) – whether you were here from the beginning or have recently discovered Hijacked Amygdala, I’m forever grateful for your time and support. You’re the best.

Thank you to the HA family, my amazing co-contributors, for allowing me to share this platform with you – you are all bloody brilliant and it’s been an honour to work alongside you. And last but not least, thank you to Babe for taking me on at the start and giving me the freedom to create and post my writing here.

I’ll still be posting at Treacle Heart, and I’m working on some new projects – if you’re interested in what I’m up to you can follow me on Twitter @treacleheartx

For my last post at HA, I’ve chosen a poem that wasn’t actually written by me, but by my late Dad (whom I’ve posted lots about over the years). Yes it’s a cop out, posting something I didn’t write, but he says it better than me.

Cheers, all. It’s been emotional!

HLR

♥♥♥


 

A Birthday Poem
by B K Rollason

There comes a time
for taking stock
of what one’s had
and what one’s got,

of where one’s going
and where one’s been,
of what one’s heard
and what one’s seen.

You know the games,
you’ve learnt the rules,
you can tell the wisemen
from the fools,

you’ve learned that all’s
not as it seems,
that life is both
reality and dreams,

and like the tides
that ebb and flow,
life’s sometimes fast
and oft’ times slow.

To survive the storm
a tree must bend,
and a new day starts
where this one ends.

(Treliske, Cornwall – February 1982)

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In my duration

man person people old

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The man about eighty is unusually jaunty

His wife tries to disguise her pot belly

Glancing at others, thinking loud obvious thoughts

He wears a lapel and gold buttons adorn his cuffs

Head shining beneath unforgivable artificial light

Her forehead is stretched and keening years unspoken

But they are each other’s people

Greeting guests from out of town with the ease of familiarity

Strange birds and ordinary, they each hold up

A piece of their time

As we all do

And it scares me

To see in you, another era

Feel that invariable distancing

As you age faster and I stay

Conning the world I’m still a kid

Something easy to do with a neat figure and shiny hair

You can last in the artifice, make it your own

freckled fancy

Then comes a time

As I have seen in you

veins arching on the back of your trembling hand

When the game is harder

And you become at last

The age of you

Seeing the distance between

Then and now like a well deserved yawn

Dividing and multiplying

I have not the body of a mother

For I was never a mother

I have not the stories of ruling

For I never sought to rule

The spilled ink on my hands

Is the same shade as when

I did handstands on sweaty gym mats

In this time, I haven’t changed enough

While you are edging closer

To that moment when even

Adults as perpetual children

Must relinquish their tenuous claim

I see it stitched plain on your face

As if written with broad stroke

Both shocking and expected

We have so much in common

The years spent tightly woven together

But now you race ahead —

And I am still

Waiting my turn, curling my hair in

My pinkie finger

Caught between young mother’s
Whom I can never be

With my reducing, fluttering hormones

And women freed of children

Launching once again

Their second coup

Whilst I am tiring of freedom

I have stood with you both

Whilst being neither one

And the mask of me is not of my choosing

But a trick of light

Or memory

Betrayed rarely

As I thrive

In my duration

Not yet where you are

Not yet where you are

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Conversation with a bigot

grunge-aesthetic-tumblr-girls-Favim.com-3855590

She’s got red-tights on and she’s got her nose in a book. It’s pretty a-typical.

The Bigot watches her drink her hot chocolate (with Almond milk, hold the whip cream, nix the vanilla) until she picked up her copy of SMITTEN this is what love looks like / poetry by women for women.

The Bigot made clucking sounds as he reads from the table over, the front cover of the poetry anthology written by 120 lesbian and bi poets and artists and eventually, unable to restrain himself, the bigot came over to her table (uninvited, as bigots usually are).

“Young Lady. Do you realize homosexuality is a crime against humanity?” He proffers in the same calm tone he might have asked; “Do you really like Hot Chocolate on a 80 degree day?”

She might be a little vain and a little shy. She might not like putting her face in the limelight but she’s met enough people like The Bigot to know how to respond. “Says who?” (She wanted to say a great deal of other possible replies, but holds her relatively well mannered tongue).

“Says GOD” said The Bigot.

“Have you spoken to Him lately?”

“I speak to Him every day.” (a self-satisfied grin)

“He makes that much time for you?” (raised eyebrows)

“He does.”

“Well that’s good then. I’m glad you have someone to talk to.”

“He would talk to you too you know. If you weren’t hurting him.”

“I’m hurting God?”

“All Queers hurt God. You go against the natural order of the world. God wants us to procreate and have families, God wants us to be happy. No homosexual is happy.”

“I think 120 poets might disagree with you here.” (points to book, which looks pretty happy next to a half-finished hot chocolate).

“They’re lost souls.”

“Lost from whom?”

“Lost from God. Shut out from God because of their behavior. Their choices.”

God doesn’t talk to them because they’re gay?”

“He wants us to love one another but obey the natural laws. Homosexuality is not a natural law.”

(thinks of stories of gay penguins or cheap shots like ‘oh but it feels so good’ and then decides it’s Just. Not. Worth. It.)

“Well you are entitled to your opinion (thinks; although I’d rather not hear it) Sir”

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” (I guess he’s not getting the reaction he wanted, wonders what reaction he expected?)

“I am not sure you can speak FOR God Sir.”

“That’s right you can’t.” – Young man, green waistcoat, brown eyes, standing to the right of The Bigot.

“This is between myself and the young lady” The Bigot is not pleased at the interloper’s presence.

“Not as long as it’s about hate it isn’t”

“You one of those fag men then? Standing up for bestiality and abomination then?”

“What if I were?”

“Then you Sir, would be a sinner.”

“Says you.”

“Says God.” (he sounds awfully sure)

“I don’t hear Him saying that.”

“He wouldn’t make himself known to you, if you were sinning Son.”

“I’d have thought that’s EXACTLY when he’d make himself known. After all why would He talk to YOU if you have all the answers? Wouldn’t He talk to the Sinner most of all?”

“Do you KNOW your Bible Son?”

“I know THE Bible Sir. I know the Koran too. And the Talmud. I try to stay up-to-date with things of importance. To avoid being a bigot.”

“You calling me a bigot son?”

“I’m saying the chances are it’s not God talking to you Sir, it’s your own fear and hate. I’m saying that if God exists He wouldn’t hate someone for being born unable to love someone of the opposite gender.”

“You’re just making excuses for criminal acts son. God would be disgusted at the lot of you.”

“Including the 120 poets in SMITTEN Sir?” I interrupt (pointing to the book, now next to a 3/4 empty cup of Hot Chocolate, I managed to get a few sips in).

“All of darnation if you intend on spreading that FILTH.”

I think of the words. FILTH. CRIME. HATE. CONDEMNATION. DISGUST. I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother who had unexpectedly converted to Mormonism a few years prior to her death.

“Grandma, I think I like girls.”

“Sure you do sweetheart.”

“No. I mean I really like girls.”

“We all like girls sweetheart.” (we DO?)

“I like girls in the way you like boys.”

A HIDEOUS SILENCE

A BOOK PLACED NEXT TO MY BED THAT EVENING, ENTITLED: Why Homosexuality is a Sin.

NOTHING ELSE EVER SAID.

I think of all the kids who had these and worse experiences. Of the kids who were kicked out of home. Of the kids like me who grew up to lose jobs, lose friends, struggle to fit in. I think of the hate that became okay to spout without any basis and without any defense. I think of the Supreme Court hearing the case right now about Discrimination in the Workplace and whether it should be legal for a person to be fired based upon their ‘sexual preference’. I think how it’s nearly 2020 and we’re STILL asking questions like that. I think of how I made the point to a friend of mine about how if it is wrong to stop people of different races from marrying, the same argument can be made against firing someone because of something they are born with. I remember my friend saying it’s not the same thing. it doesn’t say in the Bible that people of color marrying people of another race is wrong, but it does say homosexuality is wrong. I think of how that’s not exactly true and without being pedantic none of us really know the background of Sodom & Gomorrah but it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than ancient homophobia. I think of how women who menstruate aren’t forced to do so outside of city walls and how everyone eats shell fish but somehow that’s okay. How we pick and choose our hate. How we still as gays, have a long way to go and being only 2/3 percent of the world this will likely always be the case.

The Bigot has moved off. He was talking to the brown eyed man but I had tuned them out. Thinking instead of how maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t have read a gay book in public I would have been too afraid. How there were still reasons to be afraid but I’d be dammed if I stopped now. Now I’d create the damn books myself if I had to!

The brown eyed man comes back to my table. He smiles a warm smile and says; “I’m sorry about that. I’m really sorry about that. I couldn’t keep quiet when I heard what he was saying to you.”

I smile and thank him quietly. What I really want to say is; Thank you for standing up for me. For all of us. Because so often people don’t. They don’t think it’s necessary. They don’t think it matters. They don’t think it affects us. Or that we feel any less safe than anyone else. Just like a black man walking down the road with a hoodie on. A gay may fear being raped or beaten for kissing someone they love in public. It still happens. IT STILL HAPPENS.

“I used to be a homophobe.” The brown eyed man explains. “I’m sorry but I did.” He sighs. “Until my daughter came out. And then I had to re-think everything. At first I was angry, disappointed, confused. Now I understand much better. I try to speak out for her. I want to be part of the change.”

I give him my copy of SMITTEN and I say; “This is a present for your daughter.”

“That’s terrific! But this is your only copy? You haven’t finished it yet?”

“I’m the editor of this book. I was re-reading it because it brings me so much joy. I’d be honored for your daughter to have a copy.”

I leave. It’s time to get back to work. The trees are beginning to look bare and the wind is picking up. My cup is still 3/4 empty and now it’s cold. But I feel really, really warm inside.

 

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Former regard

adult black and white body female

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I am weary of giving you access to my heart

emptying and filling

milk turning to wine

dark to light

nipples hard to soft

your fingers across

my hungering skin

I audition

in the morning against

tempura and gold gilt

shivering for the slick hot movement

of you within me

time stands quivering

stars a little closer

cheeks reddened with warble

I hear languages I cannot decipher

we ache and release together

splitting atoms

my throat if it could

would act as flute

climbing keys

touch into touch into loss

I am weary of giving you access to my heart

if this is temporary and restless

we disconnect as you

reduce the moment

walking with your sharp shoes

beyond feeling

as we cool down and ardor

is replaced by greed

a starvation for control

I want to say

I am just a bird

you cannot cage me

I must see the light

in order to thrive in darkness

flames come hottest

in the fragmenting

of former regard

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Moving toward light

adult alone anxious black and white

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When I am sad, a voice, not unlike my own

chastises the impulse

if it is that, wishing to rise beyond, crush of emotion

when I am sad, I make myself sadder

by listening to those inherited echoes, telling me how I should feel

shutting down the validity, condemning feelings less than

knocking walls already fragile, disqualifying the emotion

when I am sad

I think of your disappointment

how much you wanted me to be

a thing of steel

reflecting only brightness

nothing dull or sorrowful

how I became in irony, almost everything you loathe and detest

I would say I am sorry, for your distress

but I learned instead of words, to be sad

maybe in part, because I saw, that flint in your eyes

nothing else was there

though in truth I was sad, at six years old

watching kids bully each other

knowing then, inequality and inequity

imagining the fight before I had, grown tall enough

hoping The Magic Faraway Tree

was real but knowing if it were

children grown to adults, would cut it down

when I am sad

sometimes it helps to think

love cannot be broken

by sadness or loneliness or grief

love stands as our first flower

even as it no longer exists the scent remains

to save us from disappointment

of so many other things

including each other and our infinite ability to be cruel

I am still the child with the blue rabbit

watching adults lie to each other

and kids emulate and pinch, the very stuffing out of hope

for if there is a Magic Faraway Tree

I think it would not be

for you or thee or me

like all magic things

only reveal itself to those pure hearted enough to know

sadness is manufactured by what we do to each other

with each cruel act it grows

if we let it and if we don’t

then next time I am sad

I will think on other things

like your voice and how

you make my heart quicken, just in your use

of words, the familiar cadence a worm

reaching deep into my heart

moving toward light.

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life, prosetry

Without Faltering For Reason Or Commentary

The perfect autumn day—by evening, when my toes are cold despite socks and slippers, I might not be so fond. So goes the erosion of goodwill. It’s fifty Fahrenheit degrees and sunny, gusting, and the trees are spreading color everywhere—rain is on the way, though, and the temperature is dropping. It’s fine to not be very good at something, like work, and to be much better at something else, like reading. Sincerity, I once read, is an inability to connect one thing with another but they don’t pay me to be sincere.

 


Originally posted on Art & Insolence.

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Low Flame

Sisters+-+SliderYou damned me with your penchant for

betrayal

only the smooth hollow of a quiet buttoned up body

resting now, untouched chalk and mortar

lain still so long, breath has left

I did not want to wake up

get dressed

pretend to function at the end of tugging string

there was a place in my head that dissolved living

a spindle that gathered all my yarn and knitted something else

not me

back into a shape I did not recognize

she went on without

this clockwork version of myself

whilst I followed the bath water down the drain

hearing your serpentine taunt

what was it you said?

you would feed me?

I don’t need food

I don’t need air

I am existing on memories

of being fearless and before erosion

the wonderlust of the young and close to flame

possessing no sticky cleavage, no rub of thigh

or need to sup

the fealty of those who have not yet

watched their bones dissolve into chalk

this theatre is cold

like love when it is left

on a low flame

catching and diminishing

as most will rest

and one dances

mad arms flung

like sticks of liquorice

beneath restraint

have you ever known what someone was like?

but somewhere along the journey, without any good reason, forgotten

gone on forgetting until all the things they are capable of

are lost and you see them with fresh eyes

just as wrecked and pulled to pieces the next time, they tear your fucking heart out

is that forgiveness God? When you forgive and you don’t forget?

except the very act of forgiving means you do forget

the extremity of pain and its after effects

how can you walk next to someone capable of pinching off

all their emotions as if you were snuff

turning out the light on you

just. like. that.

harm stains the mattress a livid hue

as if I were given a blood transfusion of pain

tell me please

who do I have to hurt to stop?

myself, or all the years

I wasn’t myself?

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prosetry

Every Mirror Holds Different News For Me

For a good twenty-five minutes she some young unknown sits in a blue Camaro parked with the engine running on the street in front of my house putting on makeup in the sun visor mirror while I contemplate the tree leaves and the idiosyncrasies of conversational American diction—they are changing color, the leaves, imperceptibly, as if each night deep in the middle under dark and cover yesterday’s foliage is replaced by today’s, fickle as interests and grammar. It’s the second time this has happened, this curbside dolling by this same someone on the way to someplace from somewhere else, once on a Saturday night, now on a Sunday morning, the only immediate difference being that I am no longer consumed by the small problems of sanity as I try to imagine what possessed her and for whose benefit these last-minute preparations are made.

Eventually she drives off—“in a small town everything is quickly over” yet some of us like to wrestle with incidental eternity as if it’s the converse though I usually wear Vans to front on the fact that I’m a poor hustler because I don’t know why, don’t know why there must be such fear in me, such small town awareness, here, made up, then gone, the intoxicating thrill of necromancy wafting superfluous like bad analogies and perfume on careless breezes before the maddening ice cream truck jingle monotony of ease, comfort, and simplicity snuff out these little conquests of attention. Let’s start this story over. Welcome to the city, to the refuge and the pulpit, where whatever gets rid of the terror will get rid of the wonder as well and, well, it’s fair field and no favour to suggest we here are tethered to the past by knowledge like anywhere else though the future grows up through cracks in the concrete like imagination and young women in blue Camaros who stop on side streets to put their faces on. But that’s just so much distraction. Where did you go, normalcy, and what will you be wearing when you read this, I wonder, superficialities of attitude and style subverting any comprehension of why honesty full and brutal is so hard to imagine out on the town without rejection while a life of sufficiently partitioned duplicity is well within reach. Yes, let’s start this story over, this time without the constraints of contradiction, each part and every to its fullest free and ready to embrace the impermanence of some great singularity.

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life

Tantrum

January 10th 2007. I had just broken my New Year’s resolution which was to attend whole days of school, from 8:40 to 3:15 every weekday, instead of leaving at lunchtime or walking out mid-lesson or writing the whole day off and failing to turn up at all because depression was killing me from the inside out. Apparently I had to go to school because it is the law. There should’ve been a law in place to protect minds like mine being infected with lugubriosity but I suppose parliament were too busy dealing with the impending smoking ban to really care about the rapidly snowballing mental health epidemic. They’re still too busy now.

Anyway, it was 12:40pm and I’d just walked out of Physics. I knew mother would be at work. I knew father left home to go to the pub between 12 and 12:30 every day. I dragged myself home to our disgusting council flat on the A1000, silently praying that I’d feel even just a tiny bit better after having a cup of tea and a spliff, whiling away the afternoon lying on my dad’s bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to records with only our cat and the voices in my head for company.

I turned the corner into the entrance to our block. My dad’s car was still outside. Shit. What is he still doing here? I thought he’d be out. I needed to steal some of his tobacco for my spliff. Damn. I ducked behind a bush and threw away my roll-up. I didn’t want him to know that I smoked. He’d be disappointed and blame himself. I dug around in my bag and found the sickly sweet body spray that I’d nicked from Superdrug a week prior. I sprayed my uniform and my hair and my hands. (In hindsight, this makes it more obvious to parents that you’ve been smoking but at the time it was all one could do). I stuck a chewing gum in my mouth and spied on my dad.

The car boot of his fourth-or-fifth-hand-definitely-belongs-in-a-scrap-yard Vauxhall Cavalier was open. It was a red car but was so faded it was practically pink. The back seats were folded down. He was throwing full black bin-bags into the car in a semi-organised fashion. ‘Girl From The North Country’ was playing from the tape deck. What the fuck is he doing? I crept out from behind the bush.

“Dad?”

“Hiya babes. Give us a hand with these bags, would you?”

“Sure, what’s all this? Are you taking stuff to the charity shop?”

“Not today.”

“Ohhhhh, you’re going to The Dump?”

“No, I’m dumping your mother.”

“What?”

“I’m moving out. I can’t take it anymore. I’ve found a flat. I’m sorry, princess.”

“Are you fucking joking?”

“I’m not going far.”

“What about me and T? You can’t fucking leave us with her, you CAN’T.”

“You can come and visit whenever you want.”

“Aren’t we coming with you? How many bedrooms is it?”

“Just one babes, it’s a one bedroom flat.”

“But we can come and live with you, right? We can sleep on the floor? We can get sleeping bags? You said we’d all leave her together, and it’ll just be us three, the way it’s meant to be.”

“I’m so sorry, darling. I’m so sorry. You can call me anytime. I’m still your dad, I’ll always be your dad. Nothing will ever change that, even if we’re a million miles apart, I’m still your dad.”

And in that moment I realised that this would be one of those scenes in my life that would be called a “major life event”, one that in the future I would look back on to see how greatly it affected the course of my life, one that therapists would ask me about, one that might be described as a turning point, a new chapter, one that cements a new fixture on my timeline, a “before dad left” and an “after.” I knew that this would be something that I one day write about. I had to do it right.

I realised I could do this one of two ways.

I could either kick and scream and shout and throw a teenage tantrum of epic proportions. I could tell my dad that I hated him and that I’d never forgive him for leaving us with her and that I’d never trust him again and that he’s a bastard for walking out like this and that I never wanted to speak to him or see him ever again. I could cause an almighty fucking scene, shout louder than the traffic, grab the bags from the boot and toss them into the road, strew clothes all over the street, frisbee his vinyls into the trees. I could beg him not to leave.

I could cry and hold onto his legs like I did when I was a small child. Every morning when he left to go to work I would grab onto his legs and refuse to let go and I’d cry and cry because I didn’t want him to leave. He’d peel me off and escape through the door. I’d sit by the window all day waiting for him to come back. I’d look out, nose pressed to the window for hours until I’d see his head bobbing up the street, then I’d run to the front door which I wasn’t tall enough to open and wait to hear his keys. He was always so happy to see me. I could guilt-trip him into staying. I could try to persuade him to let us live with him somehow. I could propose that mother live in his new flat and us three continue to live at this place. I could just keep screaming and crying until he realised he couldn’t leave me in a state like that, that what he was doing was wrong, was mean, was bang out of order. Was unforgivable.

‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ started playing from the car.

“I will always be your dad and you will always be my girl,” he said.

Or I could be delighted for him. I could be pleased for him. Pleased that he’d escaped the asylum, the house of horrors. He was getting out of this place alive. He wouldn’t die in that room, as I’d feared he would so many times. He’d be so much happier in his new place. T and I would have a safe place to go after mother beat us or kicked us out. We wouldn’t have to sleep in the park, we could sleep at dad’s! We’d probably get to see more of dad, since he largely avoided the house other than to sleep and bathe. It might even be cool – I could leave the house with no need to make up mad excuses about where I was going, I could just say, “I’m going to see dad” and she’d never know because they don’t speak, she’d never call him to ask. When I’d get in trouble I could go to dad’s. When I’d get into trouble at school they could call dad, instead of the wicked witch on the landline. Maybe things would be better for everyone. Maybe with dad gone, she’d be less angry in general, and therefore may be less angry at me and T. He must feel so guilty for leaving us as it is, I shouldn’t make it harder on him. I should help dad move out. I should help dad move out. I should support him, just like he’d support me if I’d moved out first. He’s free. I should revel in his freedom, breathe it in like second-hand smoke. He wouldn’t have to deal with mother anymore. He wouldn’t have to see the violence and feel powerless to stop it. His mental health would improve. Maybe even his physical health. He was free. He was free. Finally. A week after they’d ignored their 17th wedding anniversary. Free.

“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked, breaking my chain of thought.

“Black dog.”

“Shit,” he replied, worried that I’d inherited the same madness that he’d been plagued with for so many years. “Come here.”

We hugged by the car and he said,

“I’m not leaving you. Or your brother. I’m leaving her.”

“I know,” I replied.

I decided that I didn’t want to look back on this and be ashamed of my reaction. It was up to me now to protect myself and my brother. I had to keep my shit together. And I didn’t want my dad to spend the last stages of his life riddled with guilt. You should never trap or try to contain a free spirit – the best parts of them are always the first to waste away.

“Give us a hand then?”

“Okay,” I said, walking head down into the block. “Hey, Dad?”

“Yes, love?”

“Seeing as you’re moving out and you’ve got the biggest room… can I have your bedroom?”

“Course you can. But you’re probably gonna have to fight your brother for it anyway.”

“Challenge accepted.”

I picked up a box of books and heaved it out the door to the car. ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ played. “They are indeed, Bobby,” my dad said quietly, sighing.

Then I went inside and emerged with two of his acoustic guitars.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he asked.

“No, what?” I replied.

“You’re gonna have to find someone else to steal tobacco from.”

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life, poetry, prosetry

my wisdom is as neglected as chaos is

You can’t even think straight. Cleanly, that is. It’s straight enough, but so coarse and asperous I must put it in the shell of another—hence this “you” and its rhetorical undressing. You, tell me something funny. Ok, well, earlier there was pure despondence, that utter undesire for the substances of your life as you stood surrounded by linear narratives like sweaty shiny dudes at the gymnasion in tank tops for bearing tribal arm band bullshit tattoos doing bicep curls in incidental unison, their grimaces of exertion gaping back at them and that’s when irony got its hooks in deep around the vainly lathered notion of so little being left to the imagination when in fact the ancient Greeks were the ones who trained naked. Has our sense of the aesthete changed so much, or merely the gods in whose honor we do compete.

Our stories shape us and we shape our stories, you cried, as if in objection or acceptance—‘twas difficult to tell; it all depends on the angle and the context. The commercial break reminds in no uncertain terms that this particular loneliness has been brought to us by double caffeine coffee pods and home security systems but says nothing not a thing at all about extremism. Oh the places I’ve been, and left, reaching out from fate, trying to remember the crumbling Olympia of people within.

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