The First Time I Told a Lie

Do you remember the first time you told a lie? Do you remember if it even meant anything? If it even served a functional purpose? I remember mine, perhaps because it continues to hold a profound affect on the identity I cherish so much.

My family and I were living in Stockton, California when I was six years old. We would live in Stockton until 1992, sometime before I turned eight. We lived in the Farmington project housing apartments off of Farmington Rd and Highway 99, otherwise known as the Golden State Highway. My father and mother were both uneducated refugees of the Vietnam War and working minimum wage jobs. My father worked as a mail sorter for the US Postal Service and my mother as a sandwich artist. They were both younger then than I am now. It remains an absurd scenario for me to wrap my head around because I was already in elementary school by then. My father was in his early thirties, as I am now, and my mother was in her late twenties. Currently, I am still single and un-betrothed at thirty one and a half years of age while back then my parents were already the young parents of seven children. They were uneducated, unfamiliar with this new western frontier, still un-assimilated, and yet here they were fighting every day and every way they could to raise four boys and three girls.



My apartment neighborhood was a haven of sorts for Hmong Refugees. I would say I remember knowing almost everyone that lived in the apartment neighborhood because everyone was Hmong, but I cannot validate that statement. I, unfortunately, have no official census to reference. Perhaps it was because we were all Hmong that we may have been related in some distant convoluted way (the way most of us Hmongs are) or at least it just felt that way because it was the way we lived back then. Everyone was family. Everyone was trusted. It wasn’t quite Suburbia, it was definitely the ghetto, but our parents let us run free in the afternoons after school, or those long long summers in between school years, like a pack of wild wolf pups devouring the urban wilderness and landscape of empty dirt fields, dry grass back alleys, scalding California solar soaked asphalt, or the concrete walkways of that strip mall like apartment complex.

I recall many a bloody toe from running around barefoot on those concrete walkways. Why? Because we were young and we dared the world to find a way to humble us. I also recall many a stupid dare from my neighborhood friends like making fortune tellers out of notebook paper and catching bees, pill bugs, ants, or black widows and keeping them as pets in shoe boxes covered with saran wrap. We were children. We were idiots. And yet we never shared these tales of daring and danger with our parents. We were either too stupid or too mischievously intellectual to confess our escapades to our parents. And so it continued, afternoon after afternoon. We ran free of foresight, of danger, of guilt, of responsibility into the sunset of our youth.


My mostly deeply anchored memory of my youth in Stockton was an evening just as wild and daring as catching black widows with a fortune teller. It was also the first time I remember lying to my father, one of the most important people in my life. It was the first time I remember lying to anyone.

My gang of neighborhood friends came around that afternoon banging on my family’s apartment door. It has been so long now I can’t even remember any of their names. I only remember my best friend Tim. He was gangling and his older brother had a Nintendo. The latter obviously being the most important.

I remember not having any idea what they were talking about when they talked about going “sledding.” It was California. It was the middle of California, about an hour east of San Francisco. We had never seen snow. How in the hell could we go sledding? But I followed them anyway because Tim was there and I would follow Tim anywhere back then.

And so we walked out past the apartment complex that afternoon to where a few houses lined up down a dusty, dirt road behind the complex. All the dirt roads in the California of my youth were dusty. I don’t know if that was due to a lack of gravel foresight by our neighbors or if that is just some nostalgic mysticism I have attached to my youth.

I remember we passed my Uncle Khou’s sherbet green house where he kept chickens and a goat in his fenced in backyard. I remember pointing at the goat. “That thing shits perfect balls, Tim. Isn’t that weird?” I remember Tim laughing.

We passed numerous more fields with tall, dry grass that did not bend in the wind because where we lived, there was no wind or moisture. Just dry heat and dried up things, like splintered sidewalks, overgrown weeds, palm leaves, and dusty dirt pathways.

We finally came upon a slope of dry grass at the edge of the neighborhood. At the top of the slope I could see a tall fence ensnared in dry vines. The Golden State Highway was on the other side. The whoosh of speeding cars flying by sounded like the quick lapping of ocean tides breaking on a jagged rock shore. In front of the fence, stood a circle of children giggling and grasping the edge of a Carolina blue plastic kiddy pool with giant orange cartoon fishes painted along its base and the textured faux ridges of waves protruded along its base and perimeter as gaudily as you can imagine and as you have seen in your life before, I am sure. My gang, Tim, and I raced up the hill to join our friends and I recall some conversation, some non-serial, circumventing“shit talking” as growing boys often participate in, but I do not recall now the exact insults we shared with each other. All I remember was finding that impossible breeze in the desert of that urban landscape. The awakening of my youth.

The biggest of the boys, three or four of them, would hold the kiddy pool up by the edges of its back at the top of the hill as the rest of us, four or five strong, would jump into the front of the kiddy pool, hooting and hollering, holding on for dear life. After we climbed in, the bigger boys would give us a running push before jumping into the back of the pool with us and we flew. We went careening down that slope for what seemed like miles and miles and miles, like a magic carpet ride to a distant exotic city.

It reminds me now of Bastian’s ride on Falkor from The Neverending Story. We pumped our fists into the dry California air, we screamed for joy, and we rode the mystical dragon that afternoon.

I remember the wind. I remember how the cool breeze had never hit my face like that ever in my short life. I remember feeling like I had never tasted freedom quite the way I tasted it that afternoon. A bit of dirt, of dry vegetation at the tip of my tongue, a bit of the burnt rubber particles of the automobile highway traffic behind us, a bit of the cool air, and it was all in my hair too. There was so much dirt and dry grass in my hair. I also had more hair back then.

I don’t know how many times we slid down that hill that afternoon. I remember the sun was setting. I remember the evening sky had grown a deep blood orange before we finally decided we were too tired to go anymore. I remember we had cracked the base of the pool at some point during our adventure but we had kept sledding anyway. Throwing caution to the wind as one might aptly say. Our asses were sore too. I remember sharing that particular detail among each other while massaging our cheeks as we dragged the pool back to the top of the slope.

I remember walking with Tim afterward, to his family’s second floor apartment across the parking lot from my family’s apartment, after everyone else had gone their separate ways. We could see the light on in my family’s second floor apartment window. Our apartments were almost exactly parallel from each other. I remember convincing myself as a child that this was a cosmic sign that Tim and I were meant to be best friends forever. I remember Tim promising me we would do it again tomorrow. I remember saying goodbye and glaring at his older brother playing Mario Bros on their Nintendo through the slit of the closing door. I don’t remember if we went sledding again the next day. I do remember walking home alone across the parking lot, my blood pumping with adrenaline in anticipation for another sledding adventure the next day. And then, I remember walking into my family’s apartment and my father pulling me aside as I walked through the door asking me where I had been.

There is nothing else like a child’s guilt. We lack the worldly knowledge and life experience to frame it, to justify it, to attempt to justify it just yet. We only know that it hangs heavy on us like wet clothes. Like a spitball on the ceiling. There is no sense of manipulating our circumstances. It just sticks to us. Perhaps, in some circumstances, for good reason.

It was dark outside, my father said. I should have been home so much earlier. It was dangerous after dark outside. There were gangs out there and criminals. I hung my head and searched for an excuse. I was reading books with Tim, I said. We were at his family’s apartment. I promised, I said. You could ask Tim or his parents.

My father put his right hand on my shoulder and said it was okay. As long as you were being good, he said. But, as he pointed to my younger brothers Jim and Peter sitting on the couch with Tiger handheld games in their hands, thumbing away feverishly at whatever it was they were playing, if you had been home earlier, I would have bought you a game too.

I remember hanging my head even lower then. For the first time in my life I understood the ramifications of lying, and with my great luck, on the first lie I had ever uttered to another person. It had served no purpose but self torture, as any lie should. As I apologized and started walking away to my bedroom, my father pulled me back by my shoulders and he knelt down, and he looked me in the eyes and he smiled.

“I’m just kidding. I bought you one too. But don’t ever stay out this late again okay? You’re my good boy. So always be good.” And from his back he produced a Terminator 2 Judgment Day, Tiger Hand-held Electronic game. My first game ever. An item of luxury my brothers and I had never before held in our hands. I did not cry then. I was too naive, too caught up in how I could boast about my new treasure to my friends on the playground, too selfish, too unaware of what that moment would come to mean to me as I grew into a man, as I fantasized about the father I could some day be. But I am shedding tears now.

That first lie taught me so much about how unnecessary lying could be. It taught me about the true, pure love between family, about how even lies could not sever our tie. It taught me about how much my father loved me, about how much he continues to love me today, despite our current quarrels and conflict of ideals. It taught me about how much I love him and about how I should continue to work to love the ones I am lucky enough to encounter and earn in this life.

We learn through our mistakes. Sometimes it takes years to learn from them. We hope and we live with the vigor that it may not. That we will gather some wisdom sooner than later. But we do our best at the time, and we have to remember this, because it is the best that we can possibly do. None of us have ever shied away from this. We are just still learning.

We learn from the honest and the dishonest moments. And we should not ignore this, we should not ignore our own transgressions because we are not perfect, we are just still learning. We are always still learning. And I think it does take a village, to borrow from a popular proverb. We learn from each other, from the stories we share together. It will take a village for us to endear, to estrange, to discover and then to rediscover to find ourselves a home, security, a circle of support, a library of knowledge.

I hope after you’ve read this that you will be inspired to share your stories with me. Join my village. Tell me about your first lie, about your first anything, or second or third, or last. Sharing stories is how we grow. How we affect each other. How we understand that we are not alone, even in our darkest moments. We are a village. Growing together. Learning together. And sharing stories is also how we recycle the past, good and bad, into the fuel that nourishes our spirits to push forward.

Join my village. Let us fuel our future together. Tell me your story.





We spoke of many dreams 
Oh didn't we, oh didn't we
In the eye of the storm or somewhere in between
With our heads held high
Our fists to the side
With a cannon to the left
A cannon to the right
Aiming for the glory of the rest of our lives

We were fish in the stream, silver and blue
searching for something more than the truth
We were boys, brothers in arms
We were boys, chasing the stars 
We were boys, fighting for yards
We were boys

And you always knew best,
the Joker in the deck
Shameless and always willing to put it to the test
With your head held high
your fists to the side
Cannon to the left
Cannon to the right
Aiming for the glory of an endless night


Oh Hello Cowboy, we got so close to the sun
Hello Cowboy, we ain't even close to being done
Hello Cowboy, you're the only one I can think of
when I need someone by my side

We were fish in the stream, silver and blue
searching for something more than the truth
We were boys, brothers in arms
We were boys, chasing the stars 
We were boys, fighting for yards
We were boys searching for the glory of the rest of our nights
Cannon to the left
Cannon to the right
Aiming for the glory of the rest of our lives
We were boys
We were boys
We were boys
We were boys



Brotherhood never gets its due in the realm of music. Sisterhood either, since we are on the topic. But let’s not divide the line. We are talking about true friendships here. The kind that you have no understanding of. It is the watch you never have to wind. Through wear and tear and despite the oil and sweat of human hands, or the faults in its exterior imbued through gravity and clumsy grasp, it still works. It is far from perfect but the time that you keep is the time that you have shared, that you have endured. And from these ingredients and only these ingredients, Trust is derived. And so you carry it with you now, every where you go. Especially, when the world stands still. You hear, you feel, it’s tock.

It pulls you. It pushes you. It reminds you, gently, that the past is not lost but in your pocket, in your hand, in the back of your mind whenever you need it to endow you with the courage to move forward.

To the ones that carry us forward despite the burden of our girth.

To my brothers and my sisters, bound by blood or by blood alcohol level.

To Ben, my dear dear friend.

To the Glory we continue to seek and the Glory we have found in each other.


To Louise


"To Louise"

There's a note on the dresser addressed to Louise
It only says "I miss you"
but she knows better than she feels
she knows better than she can deal
Oh Louise it's okay to disappear sometimes

Made in America, she once said
Happiness comes
in two point five kids
nine to five bids
to see who outlives social security

And I love the country most
and the empty road
You can drive along so fast
that you slow down the past
think of us like that, Louise, if we ever lose track

No there ain't no room for us Juliets, Louise
No sunshine white steeds to sweep us off our feet
And if I ever go someday, 
I might never come back your way
but some times happiness ain't the road we choose
it's the path others have laid before you


And I know it's all good
but I'm a country girl
and I want me a yard where
the kids can run so far
and the day is never hard but for their ma and their pa

I hope you understand
that love is all we have
but think of the children, Louise
how will we fend?
how will we answer their questions?


There's a note on the dresser
addressed to Louise


To Louise” is very important to me in that it is one of my only songs that is not entirely my story. It is hard to get outside of yourself as a writer, but then again isn’t that the whole point? And yet, part of it is about me as I sought to understand the perspective of the friend that inspired it. A friend who was lost, just as I was. A friend who was searching for what would truly make her happy.

Ten years ago, I was working as a Fry Cook, Manager, and Delivery man in a wing restaurant because I had no other leads and honestly no other ideas as a college graduate with an English degree in Creative Writing. It should have been a B.S. instead of a B.A…. Jk. Jk. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter, but I wasn’t good enough and my parents would never sit will with that either. They wanted me to be a doctor. I needed to go back to school to be a Doctor of something. Usher in the musical renaissance of my friends Austin R., Clay M., and Dillon M., and we were beginning to realize, at that time, that maybe we could succeed as a hodgepodge band of sorts in Raleigh, North Carolina. And so there I was battling my future. The Perfect Son versus the Dreamer.

There’s that thing about Asian Stereotypes that is true. Asian parents always want their kids to succeed at the highest level of society. It eats every Asian kid up. Asian American or just plain Asian. There is no bar but the highest bar. You have to set the standard for comparison to all your relatives and every one of your parents’ friends’ offspring. You will never be good enough. They will never love you like the way you hope to be loved until you are the darling example of existence they can unfold in their wallet to their peers.

The truth is that most parents are like this. Not just Asian parents. It comes from Love and not disappointment or the preemptive strike at the possibility of disappointment. It comes from a maternal and paternal instinct to protect us from a world that holds no regard toward our well-being. Our parents attempt to lead us toward an environment where our social status, our economic status, will protect us from the hecklers that will barrage us because those guys need to find a way to feel better about themselves. They have no other fortifications to lean on. Meanwhile, our parents need us to feel better about our selves. They fight for it. They even fight us for it. And as we fight for it ourselves we forget as we carve our own slice through this canyon of existence that our parents need to feel better too. About us.

This message of goodwill and good intent often gets lost in the pursuit of all of our individual happiness. Because what will lead us to that plateau of happiness? Our own vision of happiness? Our parents’ vision of happiness? Our child’s vision of happiness? Where do these paths intersect? Will they ever?

In the serious contemplation of my own path toward that plateau of happiness, I thought of the path of my wing restaurant coworker and friend, Kristen, a woman who loved a woman but who cherished the approval of her parents from the countryside of Angier, North Carolina. I found these words in the ether and delirium of a late night.

“… sometimes happiness ain’t the road we choose

it’s the path others have laid before you”

Kristen, wherever you are now, I hope you choose your heart and not just the path laid before you. Love is love. Good intentions are good intentions. It takes many a fight, many a distant canyon forged, for us to understand these simple notions. I hope we can all find a way to recall that love is where we began with all of our intentions and love is where we all hope to end, with each other, and not distant from one another. It is hard. It may always be.

But it will also always be worth it.

To Kristen. To Louise. To Love.


My Black Bess


"My Black Bess" 

If I mistook the way that you sometimes 
look at me
Please don't worry and please don't run
because I will shrink away
Oh I will shrink away

I played our joys on the record player
waiting for the sun
I thought if I could be someone that you could 
love me better, you could 
love me better

So here I am on your doorstep
the unsure and unwelcome guest
you should say what's on your troubled mind
Oh honey, for you I've got plenty of time
honey, for you I've got plenty of time

I rode my horse past your window tonight
and I blew kisses from the back of my mind
oh if love was as simple as a ray of light
Honey, you'd be shining day or night
hHney, you'd be shining day or night


Oh I never knew which road was truer
to be the love or pursuer
I'd give my all but I'm often the loser
And I don't want to go
No, I don't want to go


Oh honey, for you I've got plenty of time.


My Black Bess” is an oddity for a couple of reasons. First of all, the title of the song appears no where in the song and for that reason it has garnered some confusion throughout the years that I hope has waned as the song and I have both aged. I’ll get to the reason why in a bit. Second of all, it was one of three songs I wrote in a single night. I have never repeated that achievement ever again. I probably never will. You can blame the fever pitch of falling in love and then subsequently, being terrified of it. Manly, right?

On that night I probably started writing around 10pm and I was up until probably 5 or 6 in the morning. All I remember was that the sun was coming up before I found myself to weary to continue. I wrote “My Black Bess”, “Marianne”, and “The Day We Drove to the Rodeo” all in one night. I guess you can say I had some feelings I had been holding in. This was also back in college when I held no reservations about being late or skipping class the next day. I might not have made it to class the next day. I plead the Fifth. Let’s keep my parents out of this loop.

The title of the song is derived from a Woody Guthrie song that Billy Bragg and Wilco covered on their album of Guthrie covers, “Mermaid Avenue.” The Guthrie song was entitled, “The Unwelcome Guest.” I have to mention beforehand that “Mermaid Avenue” is one of my favorite albums of all time and I love just about every song on that album. Billy Bragg and Wilco do a peerless job of translating Woody’s song for a new generation. However, I sat for a while with “The Unwelcome Guest” after I listened to it. Sure, the blacklisting of Communist sympathizers needed to be addressed by someone as competent as Woody Guthrie, but I also thought, brewing in haze of my own shortcomings and flawed romantic pursuits, “The Unwelcome Guest” was also the perfect metaphor for unrequited love. Damn Woody. It was so perfect it wasn’t even a metaphor anymore.

And so, the naive boy in me sought a way to understand what it meant to love someone who might never love him back and what he might do to ensure he wouldn’t destroy the beautiful connection they already shared. It was a fine line. And, in retrospect, many lessons were learned that I still carry with me to this day. One of which is to always take a chance at love. The world does not end with heartbreak. It keeps going. And you will too. A broken heart educates you very quickly. You can say that for it at least. The rest, as they say, is just history. You move on. You grow. You get some good stories, or songs, out of it. It is never time wasted. It is just a lesson learned.

Go find “The Unwelcome Guest,” if you don’t know it already. Bess was his most trusted companion. I’m sure you can sew together the rest.


The Bohemian Mama Blues


"The Bohemian Mama Blues"

Oh the answers to her questions have always hung like the stars
That dangle responsibility right over where you are
But she means as well as anybody, she's just trying to save us all
Still she claims she's the Queen of Nothing when she has conquered my heart
Oh I blow her kisses, but she's too busy listening to her call
Oh my baby she's got the Bohemian Mama
Bohemian Mama blues

Oh the children are starving all over the world
She takes her Saturdays to help us forget about the war
She says while we kill and we steal we forget about the poor
When a dollar a day has never been worth so much more
Oh but the people they keep on walking, my baby she keeps on talking to the floor
Oh my baby she's got the Bohemian Mama
Bohemian Mama blues

Oh we drove out to the ocean and sat for a spell
She said, "Sometimes I am not so sure if I am doing so well.
I do my best to help but the world cannot tell.
Oh my boy if I was the wind this ship would never set sail.
Oh I am getting older, my days they do seem shorter than before.
Oh what can I do to get out of these blues?
These I'm trying as hard as I possibly can blues?”

Now the votes are coming in they are crowning a brand new president
She says change is good but somehow we're always on the losing end
Oh if everybody knew their history they'd see it is just an illusion
Change starts with you not with a name punched out or punched in
Oh but everybody waves. It'll all be okay in the end
Oh my baby she's got the Bohemian Mama
Bohemian Mama Blues

Oh what can we do to get out of these blues?
These I am trying as hard as I possibly can
These I am trying as hard as I possibly can
These I am trying as hard as I possibly can blues


The Bohemian Mama Blues” began on a porch, like most of my songs always have. I was visiting my friend Clay in Wilmington, North Carolina, having a beer and a smoke one summer back when we were still in college, still embracing our freedom from the universe of adult responsibility, the world of facing fifty hour work weeks just to cover the bills and then using up our weekends to merely recover, to remember our true selves. We could breathe easy then, you could say. Sunsets, long drives, and late nights that turned into early sunrise bedtimes were far more common back then. We never worried about time then, like we do now. We had plenty of time. We were just getting started.

That same summer one of our dear friends, Miss Amanda Baker, was on hiatus from college and spending the entirety of it at Carolina beach. She had spent some time with Clay herself, and the rest, she was skirting around from couch to couch, porch to porch, wherever and whoever would allow her to crash for the night. She was doing whatever it took to spend time with her true love, the Beaches.

I was deep in a Bob Dylan phase at that time (I think I always will be), absorbing all the vocabulary of his earliest albums, and so, without much premonition, I thought out loud in conversation with Clay, “Bakes is a real Bohemian Mama throwing caution to the wind and living and loving and embracing her freedom, her love for the beaches.” And to this day, not much has changed. She still loves the beaches.

That was the genesis for the title of the song. I spent the next month trying to understand what a “Bohemian Mama” might truly seek from the world and what a Bohemian Mama might mean to me. What I found was more of my friends; the lovers, the fighters, the poets, the activists, the naturalists, the ones with only the best of intentions, the ones seeking love and seeking to be loved. And I also found a bit of myself.

I discovered that all my favorite people were Bohemian Mamas. We were all seeking true love in some shape or form and, even though we were always unsure of it as the youthful usually are, we were fighting for it. And we were also fighting against Time. And we still are. As we always shall.

Time, man, it seems so immeasurable when we experience something like a sunset at the beach, or share a beverage and a profound conversation with a friend, or immature conversation with a friend, or when we take a silent drive through the countryside or mountainside, or when we hear that perfect song, or when we kiss. Time is immeasurable when we love. When we take a moment to breathe it all in. To savor.

And that’s really what this song is about. It’s not about politics. It’s about learning to savor Love. It is a Love Song. And I would like to argue that every song, every narrative, every debate, political or domestic, is a love song to some thing or some one because I see two love songs inside the B-mama Blues, but we’ll save that conversation for a future beer that you and I share.

This song is a love song to all of my friends who fight for a better world, for a better day, for someone right in front of them or someone deep in the sea of strangers that deserve better. Remember that you are loved regardless of the distances you feel you must travel to save us. You are not lacking. You do not have to save us to earn our love or respect. You already have that. But keep fighting. Your will, your heart, is why you are kept so close to our thoughts.

It has been almost 8 years since I wrote this song, but my friend Graham gave me these words that I stole for this song and that still ring true to this day. They are bittersweet, but age and honest friendships have painted them with more hope and urgency.

“Oh I am getting older, my days they do seem shorter than before”

To Clay, to Graham, to Emily B., to Amanda “Bakes”, to Ben, for providing me the inspiration, friendship, and perspective to write a song I am so adamantly proud of. You were all in my thoughts as I wrote this song and every single time I sing it. You still are.


Scotch on the Rocks

Years ago, I wrote a few short stories and published them in the form of a graphic novella with the help of my serendipitously unemployed (at that time) and yet vastly talented friend, Graham Misenheimer. This is the manuscript for “Scotch on the Rocks,” the first story in our publication, “3 Stories.” I’m hoping to digitize the actual graphic novella as soon as I can educate myself on the proper tools to convert a high quality transfer.

In the meantime, this is “Scotch on the Rocks.”


how do you do

I don’t know what to say. I sat down Friday afternoon after work and I had been thinking about my friend because it had been about a year since he called me on the phone, asked me what I was doing that weekend, then said it didn’t matter, he was coming to kidnap me for an impromptu trip.

I think, for the rest of my life, I will fight for positive thinking and optimism not because I believe in the instant magic of it, but because I know how hard it is to find every day. And if we don’t keep searching for it we will never find it. I don’t know if my friend found it, but if you ask the people who knew him, he certainly brought it. 

To happiness, to every short burst of it we can milk out of this short life. To friendships, to those who climb down into the darkness of the well with us and lead us back. To my friend, who continues to make me laugh in the vacuum of my car and continues to inspire me to not be too serious or too depressing, to suck it up, to be a man about it, to be shameless and to not apologize, at least so often.

I don’t know if I’m well, but I know I am better because of you. To knowing what you have to hold on to is worth holding on to, sir. We’ve drank to that so many times in the past, like when we first started playing guitar together, or when we lost our grandfathers, or when you turned thirty. This beer and every one I will ever have is to you.

I’m always thinking of you.


How do you do

If I was an honest man, all you would find here
is silence. But I have a tongue, and a tongue must
taste, must make sense, must draw from the empty
coarse, palette, the best of atmospheric intent -tions,
and stand to attention. To send the gentle smile,
the reminder to not stare off into the distance
where the ships have sailed unmanned,
no wind, no sail, no remote control
of the tide, no consciousness willing to bear the weight
of the cargo, the flotsam we recovered and rebuilt
as wide-eyed perilous navigators charting our journeys
by the light of the stars, by the light of our young hearts,
by the light of some distant beacon on a shore,
a harbor of comfort, of stories from the past
we were still sailing for. Did you make it.
It seemed like you did. Even if you could not
believe in it. You made it, and here and there I hear
the trumpets blare, confidants and associates,
acquaintances from beyond that port they have photographs
and logs that have kept track
of your kindness, your fortitude, your gratitude,
your courage to defy the administration, Bobby Knight,
and that chair you threw across the basketball court.
They wear your name on their T-shirts and they swing away,
stitched leather balls spinning into a future you knew
they could find with an educated mind.

I have ran out of words, good sir.
Out of good time and good
excuses and out of
making good, and so, I regress
because this fist fight, this bare knuckle brawl,
against the inertia of falling forward,
it might mean that some thing I cannot see
may catch me.

Because it seems all the things that do ever catch me
are the things I cannot see.

The things that jerk,
that hook, the pulley and the harness
that bind me, that lift me from time to time,
that lift Peter Pan up from his slumber in Never Land,
and how long have you been asleep Peter,
how long have you not been paying attention.

And so, I regress, scouring the ledger
through the glass that blurs the past.
Finger prints and palm prints and nose prints.
The grease of human diligence
attempting to grasp, to clasp, again
those moments in the back of my mind
in between our shared, adolescent dreams
of pretty girls we confused into loving us, somehow, somehow…
the ones we’d like to find again,
the ones we should have never let go of,
the ones we assured each other we were going to still find.
Those moments somewhere in between the concrete and the abstract
pavement of the path that we argued
would defy every eloquent epitaph.

We were going to set this world on fire, perhaps if only
we knew it better then, to keep the other warm;
with company, with brotherhood, with handshakes
we could never decide on how hard to embrace,
with truths and dares, we could never decide on
how hard to embrace, with embraces we could
never decide on how hard to embrace.

We were both storytellers, prone to exaggerate, to inflate
our simple lives, to escape
how natural it was to love
everyone we loved, and to love each other
at a distance or by bonfire light, neon light,
or by Miller’s High Life Lite. It was not, my friend,
it was extra ordinary.

They come now, all dressed
intending their Sunday best.
I stand now. I smile. I shake hands.
I offer my deepest gratitude for their presence,
their arrival, their condolences, and for once,
because I have never been much of an honest man,
I don’t want them to give any of it back to me.
Take it with you, please. Is this the currency
that it takes. The rare minted coins, molten in the furnace
of an education, the price of time.

Take it. Please, take it. Give me more time.

I sat on my knees a few days ago and I prayed.
The phone rang and rang and I did not answer
because I did not have the answers
because I have never been much
of an honest man. And because I have never been much
of an honest man, I prayed to every God I knew
and I offered them myself. I offered them years
that I may never have. Take half,
take it all. Take what you must
to give my friend a chance. I am not
an honest man and I do not
deserve the fortune or the happenstance
of fortune. But my friend.
But my friend…

I revile silently now
through smile and through handshake. Not because
the many faced Gods have failed me
but because I have failed myself
for not loving you enough.

Because I have not been
an honest man. And I wonder now
if that is the true currency
of time. Honesty. Presence. Loving in spite of.
Have I saved all these coins for too long?
Hoarding them in the secret shoe box
among the other shoe boxes inside the closet,
depositing them into a safe deposit box,
a rainy day fund that will sit until the floods come
and pass.

I’m sorry, my friend. I do not know how to do, today.
I sit. I stand. I crawl. I drink. I smoke.
But this is not living, not like you did.
How did you do.
How do you do.

I am sorry, my friend, because, I love you.
Present tense. Eternal tense.
I love you.

Take this with you.

We are rebuilding here, the flotsam, the cargo
that has grown so heavy, but we are learning again,
all of us, how to carry you with us.
And we are slowly raising our sails again
led by your beacon, your journeys, the tales
that are still being told beside the mug, the comfort of
fermented youth
you helped brew.

And we still laugh some times, at the things
that you have done. And we still say sometimes,
if you were here, oh what you would have done.
Oh how you did what you did, my friend.
And I think of you, sir, all of the god damned time.
How do you do, my friend.

How do you do.
How do you do.


I came home from work this afternoon to my nephews. The older one, 11, spiteful and ornery, already bearing a complete knowledge of the universe, was unshaken by his uncle’s entrance. The younger one, 5, soon to be 6 in a couple of weeks, screamed my name as he came out of the bathroom with his pants still down to his ankles, screaming for me to look at his fresh scar, a giant burn that ran from one side of his left leg to the other side the width of an adult palm. I helped him pull his pants back up carefully avoiding the scar and picked him up in my arms and tossed him up in the air. He laughed and laughed, poking me where he could with his tiny index finger, and then immediately shifting in tone, more serious now like an old friend over a coffee date, but laden with his enthusiastic preschool lisp, still in my arms, he told me his story. He was so excited about his burn. It didn’t hurt anymore he said. Daddy took him to the doctor and then to a man with needles and he was scared and he cried a lot but now it didn’t hurt anymore.

Such strength. Such resilience. Such joy. He ran around me as I sat down to check emails pelting me with gentle fists and a pillow, yielding his full force, trying to coerce me into chasing him. Pelting me with his love.

The joys of life are simple. Love is simple. I believe what may complicate love is expectation. We hear so many stories and I think we try too hard to insert ourselves into these fairy tales. But this is our story to write, to retrospectively narrate. Our very own story to explore. Our very own story.

Joy, I think, is a boon because it is unexpected. Not predestined. Not predetermined. Not devised by the laws of matrimony or a fat bank account or flowers on the first date. Joy is defined in the moment we become aware of what we have in that moment or what we already have and how much it means in separation from the moments we have sought so much distance from. And darkness, darkness is as natural as happiness. You have to know this and you have to continue to defy this. Because. Because you deserve better. Because you deserve joy.

I am not a fortunate fellow. Ask my friends. Ask my family. I am a clumsy guy. But fortune is bullshit. Don’t wait for it. The world is not your oyster it is your blank page. It is your story. Entertain yourself. Keep writing your story. There are no promises. Some accessory characters will get written out because they were divas and just didn’t fit the story well. Some will linger around briefly and then make unexpected, influential cameos. And some will stick around forever. There are no promises but perhaps there will be an education.

Keep writing your story and joy will find you. And then please, share that with me.

Why Rabbits Have Holes

This is the only poem of mine that has ever been published. It was published in North Carolina State’s annual design and literature publication, the WindhoverI can’t recall now which year. I met a beautiful girl around that time with a resilient, uncanny spirit who was an EMT and as I asked her questions about her profession I realized quickly how little I knew about the urgency of life. The frailty of life.

What did I really know at all.

This beautiful girl is still resilient and uncanny and she is still out there saving lives everyday. I don’t see or talk to her as much as I would like, but she’s still making a difference in my life. She taught me that existential dilemmas are complete bullshit, even when they do mean something. She taught me that living life means more than understanding life. There are some things that will never make sense. She taught me about moving forward, cherishing the people you have and what you have, and that what you have is always more than you would ever want to lose.


Why Rabbits Have Holes
They could not resuscitate Mrs. Peachtree.
“It was too late,” the paramedic said, her face
young, but drawn like the flat shade of a window blind,
her eyes down, never up, and when she walked away
her partner whispered to me that it was her first time.

The steps it took to my house around the block,
the ones I had never bothered to count; the trees,
saplings that were younger than me; the gnomes,
grimacing and waving, frozen elf hats in the headwind,
the back of my unzipped jacket ballooned like a paratrooper’s chute.

I left my window open when I sat down in my room
and opened my notebook to an empty page
and I could only think of



It seems we are always in the middle of thingsThis is a part of me I am not proud of, but it is a part of me. I wrote this a long long time ago and along the journey since then I have grown to learn that questions are not destinations. They are signs along the path that will lead you. 



My mind is not clear. There is dust.
Eyes blink, shoulders shirk off the waste
of many, many years and I sit down
because the weight is still there.
The dust is still there. The waste is
still there, settling like ash, like snow,
like teeth unconditioned in spite of mother’s taunt,
like white walls lived in, jaundicing,
like dimpled cheeks where there ought not to be
dimpled cheeks. Like time, lost
with an audible tock, a gentleman and his axe
swinging through the block…

Paul dragged his axe and left a canyon.
How did I leave a mountain.