“The authentic! I said
rising from the toilet seat.”
– Denise Levertov
Through the skylight I watch the December branches seizing in the wind.
I get dressed and walk down the hill to the grocery store, trying not to slip on the wet sloping sidewalk.
I’m out of tea and toilet paper.
I am restless and empty.
I left my debit card in the ATM and had to order another one and have it sent home.
I have run out of time but it has not run out of me.
There is a lagoon at the end of the lane.
The geese and ducks have flown away.
I wouldn’t even mention this except I never noticed that they were there.
My first day here I was taken, brandished in the island’s paw like a cardboard tube in the hand of a four-year-old on Christmas morning.
I have two clocks in my room, one for time, the other for eternity.
One was a gift, the other was another gift.
The power has gone out.
I am all out of matches so I light a candle with a wink.
The rain keeps interrogating the pane.
This morning, or whichever morning you read this, I was walking through the woods when I found a steamboat on its side.
The obvious question was How did it get there?
But the necessary question was How can I use this to get free of my body and time?
My mom thanks god every time she makes it through a yellow light before it turns red.
But what about the car behind her who is carrying a maimed child to the hospital?
The Lord works in mysterious ways, she says,
What does the river mean when it freezes, when it says, No more. I am tired. Leave me.
I pull the cry from my throat like a bloody cord and tie it to the tree next door.
I like your playful nihilism, the way you say
We are all just a scrap of toilet paper trailing behind and beneath God’s shoe.
There is a cello perched on the shore, its bow lying beside it in the sand.
Footsteps stepping toward the waves.
But where is the symphony coming from?
I’ve just taken a shower and am at my desk reading Chuang Tzu.
Did you know that “the birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow”?
But don’t worry; the Tao governs all things!
It is there when you wake and watch the trees through the skylight waving in the angry wind.
It is there when you go to the bathroom and brush your teeth.
It is there when you walk to the store to get tea and toilet paper and walk back home uphill and your lungs feel like two wet sacks of charcoal.
It is there when you find your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend on Facebook and try to determine if you are better than him and that she made a mistake and will apologize any day now.
Tao is there when you prepare and eat your Easy Mac™ and take a shower and read Chuang Tzu.
Drop everything and look at the new snow on the mountains settled like a kiss on a fresh pair of linens.
I want to take you to where the fire laughs and spin you around in my arms until we are a single flaming dervish.
A man met me at the end of the pier and said,
Whatever I see I love, but whatever I love I devour.
How to keep an empire in the morning that you built in your sleep?
I slept for 12 hours last night.
I dreamed I was being chased by some unseen pursuer who smelled like wet hickory.
I clearly remember jumping out a window and landing feet first on a stair step and running back up to the window.
One morning Chuang Tzu and Omar Khayyam were having breakfast with one another.
They were both eating fish.
Chuang Tzu said: I am that fish you are eating.
That fish you are eating is me.
Khayyam replied: Then am I that fish you are eating?
They both laughed, threw the fishes back into the sea, embraced, and walked backward in opposite directions, waving.
Sometimes I wake up at six in the morning and get up to pee and contemplate existence, catching an awkward glance at myself in the mirror.
Sometimes I forget it is my reflection and pee on myself.
I never wonder anymore if anyone will ever love me.
I don’t know if I can keep you.
I don’t know if I have faith enough to stay and say I love you.
I wonder if I mean anything at all as I stagger back to bed and shuffle under the sheets to sleep.
I never talk in my sleep; just ask every girl who’s never slept with me.
That narwhals exist is as good a reason as any for getting out of bed in the morning.
(They are the unicorns of the sea!).
But winter was not made for feeling.
Winter was not made at all.
Sometimes I ask a window, What do you see? How do you become pure nothing?
I would like to walk in the rain without kneeling beneath it, without wiping it from my eyes.
Michael Julian Arnett's work has appeared in BOAAT, Entropy, The Portland Review, Eunoia Review, Queen Mob's Teahouse, and others. He lives in Northern California.