Pointless Stories: Reflections


I have never lived in a rainy city before, but now I am in a rainy province. So far it is mostly drizzly and each time I go out I am not much inconvenienced. It is deceptive, where if you disregard it the water really builds on your skin and then you are flooded.

I like to go out for a walk every day if I can because my apartment is all white plaster walls and white tile floors and it is a claustrophobic aesthetic that starts off empty and ends up dirty. There are art posters and all sorts of picture frames in my home though, because I had already known of China’s odd love of pale patterns. I’ve flecked it with color for a homier vibe.

Usually when I go out it’s not very far because for whatever complaints I have of it, my home has all my routines and my business inside of it. It is warm and has everything I need. That’s probably something worth mentioning too. When I go out on one of my evening strolls it is often to scavenge for a supplement to dinner, or some kind of thing I need for teaching or living, or both. During the weekend going out’s a bit more pointed. The school’s cafeteria closes down and there’s no work tomorrow so that’s when the long journeys into town for food, drink, and company happen.

Last routine weekday step-out I had bought a mop and a trash bin with a pop-up lid. Well, I think that was the last time I stepped out – actually reflecting on it the last time might have been when I went to KFC. I specifically wanted to order an intriguingly odd looking hamburger meal that came with what looked like a giant strawberry red pizza roll and some sort of hot drink. The pizza roll was actually a super sweet kind of jelly pie thing that tasted better than the burger. The burger itself had a layer of dried noodles on top of it and loads of sloppy applied sweet mayo. The hot drink was corn juice, which I guarantee tastes exactly the way you imagine it.

Anyways, the events blend. I can’t really remember the sequence, but there are a lot of small discrete motions that stick out from the continuous motion. The pity I had for the trash can I was buying sticks out like a wave in the humming sea of consistent motion. That trash bin had cost a surprising amount and I bought it explicitly as a used a toilet paper container. This was a premium trash can – I am telling you – and it must feel like it got a raw deal literally pocketing what my body wouldn’t! Its stainless steel exterior shines underneath the dim lightbulb in my bathroom right now and I still feel the pity I had for it the day of purchase. “Hey, sorry,” I’ve maybe even said aloud, “but you were the only thing with a lid, and honestly you are doing a swell job keeping the smell in.”

I am getting off track. In Changzhou it rains a lot and there a lot of reflective surfaces. This is probably my favorite thing about the city. The reflective tiles of the sidewalks are mostly that strange kind of grey with different tones and shades inside it, with some different colors patterned in here and there. All in between the grey there’re are thin lines of deep black tiles containing the smoothest reflections and in them I can see the glimpse of the grey and black Midwestern skyline designs of Chicago. When the rain really falls it is easy to get caught up in the city and its reflections. Sometimes when the night sky is really clear the outlines of the buildings become stark underneath the wide open. Then the rigid design of this rain slicked little city expands and if my eyes spiral inward, they are plain caught to it and beholden for a little while. Each upright slab sits equidistant from its neighboring building, and if the neighbors are a part of the same apartment complex then they’ll have the same facades too. The angles are equal and the balconies jut out in sequence like the arms of swimmers popping up from under drizzly rain curtains. For a while I was catching single swimmers out and watching their simple motions but with that kind of approach I was missing the way the whole show comes together.

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This last night I went out the sky was not too clear, I think, but even on the smoggy evenings all that’s up comes back down in reflections. The rain was going in the same light drizzle it has had for the last few weeks and all along the ground there was the slick veneer of water on smooth surfaces sticking face up and looking. What they saw is marked right there in the rain pooling on top of them and for some time I’d just stare at my feet stepping over puddles and catch a single heavy and stout piece of skyline quivering porous underneath me. After a while treading the same paths there were certain moments where I found that reflections convened with the images gazing into the watery mirror, like reality doubling up. It was probably a good number of patterned walks ago when I noticed how this long stretch of wide tile cut down the middle by three green reflecting pools ran up to a reflection that always catches me now. It comes along through this little back road a friend taught me to take to that is a bunch of passages that lead to a circular plaza where old ladies like to form up and do square or pair dances. The passage that leaks out to a main road goes on for a bit and about midway through its distance the flat, tall, and wide face of a white building with thin veins of multi-colored neon lights reaches out at first only in reflective rainwater pools. It pulls at my feet and as I follow it the long white thing slinks into a normal shape while the base of its reflection joins to reality and points straight up at the sky. The building and its mirror image both sit blinking multi-colored, probably wondering why I eyed them up top to base to base to top. If I was untoward to the tile and the concrete, I apologize.

On the main road all the reflections are still there and sometimes even clearer in they way they form buildings up into massive straight lines, all standing at attention in perfect rows that shoot to the sky and into the Earth. Wherever I go, KFC, Burger King, a restaurant, it is bright and warm and the servers somewhat know me. In each place I mostly want silence or to talk with a friend in English, but I’ll try to order and do the necessary interactions in Chinese. People will likely watch me eat and at this point I don’t even notice peering eyes much anymore. The days reflect each other like this. An experience at one nearby place reconstructs down from its top to its base to the base of another nearby place to that other place’s top. It is why it is so hard to pull the days apart and I stick to memorizing the things that send a brief ripple through the puddles over the steady fall of rain.

There’s no absence of those kind of ripples. Once I was deeply curious about the old ladies dancing in the plaza an how long they want on for, so I joined in on the whole duration. It was really long, maybe an hour and a half of aerobics set to Chinese “Cha-Cha Slide”-esque music. By the middle I was into it and by the end I was exhausted. “Are you tired?” asked an old man in Mandarin. “Very tired.” I replied back.

Another time maybe two or so weeks back I met a college age girl who spoke great English – or rather she met me. I had sat down at Burger King and she came over to me with such a genuine zeal I couldn’t let it go un-reflected, even though I wasn’t looking for a conversation. She had a very warm and low-lit buzz about her, like the café lighting of the Burger King (US brand fast food joints have nicer design in China). Apparently she had a foreign teacher at her university but had never found one roaming in the wild, feasting on its very own imported native fruits. She was in some kind of business management end of the textile industry and was thinking of going abroad so she plied me with fairly deep questions about how living away from home feels. I kind of liked that because it was unlike the average conversation where I’d say for the tenth time where I was from, what my work was, how much I was paid, and how long I had been here. In the end she got my WeChat (a poplar messaging app) and we sped off to separate places. I haven’t heard from her since, but that’s normal and it does not make me sad anymore. I don’t think it is just because I expect it, but because now that I have seen the first be the last so many times, I don’t think the lack of a sequence colors the one-time-things any worse.

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Then I’d go back home. Sometimes some drivers mulling about by their parked cars will stop me and talk for a while. They have some pretty fun banter and seem eager for me to find a girlfriend. Just this last time I stopped for a coke at a nearby convenience store and chatted with a middle aged couple who run the place. They have a black and white cat patterned so it has a thick mustache. I had met it before when it was a lot smaller, but it remembered me when I took my hood off and started playing with my hand like it had before. I spent a bit spinning my headphones around for it to paw at while I pet it, so of course the owners and I talked about cats and the pets I had back home. Then I waded back in through the crowd of parents looking to pick up kids and exchanged quick hellos with the gate guards.

Past the gate and in the courtyard there’s this massive, red, abstract star. When it rains water pools around its circular base and the star shines once up and once down at every angle. Then there’s a brief walk where the school buildings rise up to each side and things feel a bit more cluttered before everything falls to wide and open as the basketball courts come in on the right and the student cafeteria on the left. The basketball court’s a solid green surface that extends all the way to far outer wall of the school. Not too far off, there’s an apartment complex of similarly styled beige buildings with jutting strips. They stretch down and leak into the reflecting green surfaces of the basketball courts until the top of the reflections feel in reach and the summit of their tangible bodies feel out of touch.

Finally there’s the last few strides home. The dormitories are way in the back of the campus and they sharply cut off the wide open plain made by the expansive basketball courts. They are flat but for iron frames outside of windows where kids hang sheets and clothes. Two of them squeeze right up close to each other, maybe only fifteen feet apart, and fence off the teachers’ apartments where I live. Each building is about four or five stories and they make a thin mountain pass that the plains filter into – a dark little channel covered up top by a tin roof. Looming right behind them are the apartment complexes that reach up at least twenty floors, speckled on each level with intermittent light. Straight forward the road is gravelly and crooked, creating for imperfect reflections. The dorms and apartments lean into the water on the ground but rugged and rickety terrain turn their blocky bodies splotchy. As I near the pass the apartment complexes lean in closer, breathing over the neck of the dorms. The peaks of mountain ranges mark the instant end of the reflective plains as the darkness of the pass swallows me up and the pitter patter of rain drops clapping cold tin blend seamlessly with the hushed murmurs of students and the distant drone of cars. When I step out of the pass, the dorms circle up behind me and the humble hill of my apartment complex sits just beneath the twenty-something story apartment building and the speckled lights that it thrusts upward into the starless night sky.

It took me a while to realize it but much of the campus is designed to keep people out of the rain, with tin roofed corridors nearly always connection to overhangs and tunnels. There are corridors of wavy tin roofs that cover lanes leading to the area around my apartment – which has stone ping-pong tables, a parking area, and a small building for holding trash. I can rarely smell the garbage but it draws in all sorts of noise and excitement. In the nights the wild cats of the campus sustain themselves off this garbage and argue over it fiercely and in the mornings Chinese people also argue at least around it but for reasons I can’t discern. When I hear the cats I laugh, but when I hear the heated Mandarin something in me gets a bit angry too and I am not sure why.

Crossing past the garbage there are parked scooters and cars lined up neatly before the wall of the campus. At first it startled me to see security cameras and sharp glass shards lining the top of the wall near our apartments. Now I don’t even catch their reflections. I suppose that’s the sign of a good security measure – present to outsiders and subtle to insiders. It is interesting though,, that once I get close enough to see those glass shards I can also almost glimpse into that high-rise community sitting right behind me and looking straight over.

When I step into the narrow space that leads up to the door I can hear the sound of rain hitting tin now overwhelming everything. For a bit I listen for the scraping sound of dirt falling off my shoes and onto my red, improper English adorned doormat. Opening the door, the fluorescent lights are already bounding out off of white surfaces to greet me. Inside the blank sea swallows up everything and I am almost sleepy underneath the fluorescent lighting, the warm air, and the vibrating hum of the heater producing it.

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~Austin R Ryan

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How To Be Alone With Words


Writing has always struck me as an immensely lonely experience. I have put content up on several blogs for over five years, and seen all sorts of fluctuations in views. Sometimes I strike a chord in nearby friends with a wary word of mine. Sometimes I win things with the sentences that I string together. That’s really rare. Most times nothing happens. I have reached out to my nearest and dearest to get sincerest feedback on my best shit but believe me the relief of the lonely is temporary. It is a fluctuation from the form, a brief shift in something fundamentally a thing for me and by me. I based it in solipsism since I was a boy. For me it has been a way to address the words that bite at the back of my brain and stain a page with them. Readers mostly come and go without matching a word of mine with theirs.

I am alright with that. I promise. This isn’t a guilt trip trap to get you to read more, so rest easy and go as far as you like.

A long time ago I was antisocial and hid away any words I did. I disliked the way other people talked and read, so I’d spray whatever I wanted out across a page and assume it’d go misunderstood. These days publishing the things I make is a solid love – but one I forget about. It is something real and often rewarding, though not always so consuming. Both back then and now I feel lonely in writing, even though currently I let people read me when I think I’ve prettied up. There’s nothing wrong with that though, and I am not trying to lodge a complaint or make a call.

I have asked plenty of people to connect to something, and I have had plenty oblige me. It is pretty nice, a great way to socialize. But, there’s a level of love for this thing I do almost rote that’s never really shared and probably shouldn’t be. There is an effort in writing that can’t fully be received when an hour’s write is a minute’s read, so it starts feel solitary – like the smoothness of a final draft hides the mountains climbed just to make it decent. There’s a way that even friends and family will fall off from my collection as it expands, too.

That’s okay. When I was younger I’d get sore about it, but then I got around to adulthood and understood their business better. They aren’t obligated and what they do read is more than enough for me now. When they read, the things they say always surprise me and often light up my whole week. But if I wrote for them – to chase down that sensation of togetherness – then I’d have stopped a long time ago.

I started writing a lot in fifth grade, so it’s been over a decade now and I think I’ve finally learned how to be alone with words. After this time dragging my linguistics alongside me, pipe dreams of a million readers and a bestselling book haven’t died, but I don’t think they need to for me to understand that an actual audience would not divorce the loneliness from writing. I’d still be sitting up alongside myself at night, digging up shallow ground I contrived to be deep to produce another story. I’d still be gratifying the things I found right and feeding or pouring out emotionality to keep myself on balance. Until I stop loving it, all these words are primarily for me. It is unfair to give a gift to yourself and pretend it’s for someone else.

Writing is lonely, but because it is for me. Writing makes me feel alright being alone because I use it to settle the scores I have with myself. It is not a proper way I measure myself, though sometimes I mess up and try to use it as a ruler. It is not a part of my struggle to be a better person and correct my shittier behaviors, though sometimes I’ve slipped up and used it as a soapbox. Nor is it enhancing my career or saving me money, though plenty of times I wished it did both. If anything, it lightens the load of managing all those other things and so it belongs mostly to me. Sharing it brings so many surprises and fine moments that I rarely regret it but in the end it is my way to properly settle with myself when no one else is around.

In America, a person can feel unaccompanied across any number of social circles. No one is bound by their social setting, they are encouraged to be free and fly toward the thing that gets them their personal glory. There’s no yuanfen or reincarnated spirits catching up over another lifetime. There’s often just that lonely feeling in knowing that any relationship can be transitory. I am alone in writing because anyone’s relationship to my writing is just as transitory, floating article to article based on their time tables – and saying that should never condemn them or me. I like being alone in writing, because ever since I started I’ve felt more like my relationship with myself isn’t transitory – Like I am by my own side. As I have come to let friends and family inspire me, I’ve felt our relationships may not be so transitory either. I might feel alone but seldom empty and for me that’s how to be alone with words.

~Austin R Ryan

No More Lifeless Horror


[Spoiler alert: this post reveals the ending of Oculus and The Shining – though you really should have seen that one by now]

The last time everyone in my immediate family was in town we all sat down to watch a horror movie. My family loves a good scary movie. We live in an old wooden Victorian home that seeps at the seams with the creaks and rustles that build tension in ghost stories. Fear has a fun and almost playful dimension to it in a good movie. But sometimes horror gets too hung up on fear and forgets itself. Horror movies often ignore the hallmark of a good story in favor of some cheap thrills. So many mediocre horror films butcher their own themes to manufacture fear and end up lifeless because of it.

Trying to think up a good horror film to watch, I recommended Oculus. It is a very well put together film with solid acting and camera work, but it was ultimately mediocre. “It has a pretty bad ending.” I’d say, but it was more than that. It was a potentially great movie that chose to be mediocre.

In the shiny new horror title Oculus, a pretty standard scary movie plays out with an interesting psychological twist. Two siblings pit themselves against a satanic mirror that essentially killed their parents. The sister leads the charge and eventually recruits the reluctant brother who mostly wants to move on. The novelty of the movie comes from the way the mirror twists the reality around the siblings until they have to find cues and create signs of sanity to avoid getting destroyed by it. Bone piercing dread slips into what would otherwise be another dull battle with demonic forces. It isn’t a perfect movie, with some twists and reality bending moments feeling fairly predictable and some standard horror overacting.

The two siblings standing next to the possessed mirror. Photo courtesy of a review of Oculus from the film focused blog The Movie Guys.  https://jordanandeddie.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/halloween-film-review-oculus-2013/
The two siblings standing next to the possessed mirror. Photo courtesy of a review of Oculus from the film focused blog The Movie Guys.

However its biggest failure is not in cinematography or acting, but the mismanaging of a great theme. Like any good scary movie protagonists, the hubris of the two siblings lead them into trouble. They assume they can handle the mirror. Obviously they can’t. The movie plays out with perfect pace and little problem as the mirror brings back the trauma it inflicted on their childhood. In the final moments Oculus shatters its own momentum and dismantles motifs just to keep the audience on edge.

In the last thirty minutes of the movie the siblings uncover repressed memories of the reality behind the death of their parents. Possessed by the mirror, their father kills their mother and turns on them. With almost no chance of survival and the end nearing the kids cower near the mirror. In one tiny act of defiance the dad turns the gun to himself – against the will of the mirror – and shoots. His body smacks the corner of the mirror and gives it the only blemish it ever had in its centuries long history.

What builds is a human theme that a sense of love creates reality; that this familial, human love is the only thing that could fight back against an inhuman, monstrous force. Even if it is just a scratch, it is the only injury on an otherwise indomitable force of dread. This theme gives real meat to an otherwise just well executed fear fest. In the end love renews sanity and brings clarity in madness. The message is incredibly hokey, maybe even gauche, but simultaneously timeless and sympathetic.

When the ending arrives and Oculus promptly picks up the theme like a prized vase it just made and smashes it against the wall to draw some shock from the viewer. The mirror lures the brother into murdering the sister by distorting reality so he can’t see where she’s standing. He ends up carted off to an insane asylum screaming about how the mirror did it, and it goes back on auction presumably to claim another victim. Where was the love the film painstakingly built up to? Where did the lucidity of family go? The end of the film drowned it out after explicitly telling the audience that it was the only thing that could not be drowned out. The end of the film weakened it as a form of resistance after explicitly showing it as the only thing that could fight back against the mirror.

Out of fear that the audience won’t feel afraid, Oculus contrives an awful ending that betrays its own themes in the ultimate low-risk horror move of killing off all but one lone, knowing character to clear way for a sequel. This is what’s truly gauche about horror. This is the turn off. Nothing horrifies mediocre horror more than sincerity to a theme. Without a theme any story becomes directionless and hollow. Unfortunately horror movies often ignore themes and motifs to pound fear into the viewer, but this just cheapens the genre to what many people complain it is now: lifeless, heartless, corporate creations with rehashed stories.

Horror should hit home. Horror should stick with you in good endings and bad for the way that it drives at a point – just like any other type of story. It takes the courage to stick to a theme and deliver on it to actually hit home. Instead, horror chickens out. It gets scared of commitment and the cold feet scary movies have to their own themes turn anything memorable in them to something immature and fleeting. The problem does not end with Oculus. The dilemma extends to movies like Sinister – that also forces a bad ending on the audience likely to pave the way for its recently announced sequel – and so many others that have a glimmer of greatness and settle for the alright.

Jack's insanity memorialized. Taken from this blog post./a=href>
Jack’s insanity memorialized. Taken from this blog post.

Thematically well made horror is not an impossible dream either and The Shining shows this by endlessly building on themes of interior versus exterior and pure delusion. The Shining ends with the father of the family, Jack, alone and frozen in a maze, a smile plastered on his face. Overlook Hotel seems fine on the outside, but it is a malevolent place trapped in a terrible time. Engulfed by the hotel, Jack takes on its character so completely that his smiling façade belies a twisted interior, all of which is frozen in place. The end of the movie completes Jack’s delusion by directly putting him inside an old, black and white photo of the bar he saw in his insanity. The themes of façade versus interior and delusion to even the time period play out in simultaneous perfection at the end of The Shining. If The Shining were made with an ending like Oculus’s Jack would butcher his family and snap out of it as the cops wheeled him away. It would feel cheap and it would lead to a sequel that would feel even cheaper.

Modern horror with a completely bad ending can also capitalize on themes to create a more memorable experience. Let the Right One In – an austere vampire flick – thrives off of soul-sucking loneliness that every frame of the cold, empty Scandinavian scenery compliments. The trials of a lonely boy with an ever working mother provide the basis of a sense of solitude that does not end until the curtain call. Let the Right One In paints a dreadful, ageless child vampire that hides behind an aging and dying thrall. With every moment the white as snow vampire girl further seduces the lonely boy. Her warmth to him radiates amidst his cruel classmates, absent mother, and the snowy Swedish landscape all around. The contrast of the vampire’s simple warmth to the boy’s cold life stirred up my stomach for a week. Through themes Let the Right One In creates a vampire that is simultaneously frigid beyond belief and the warmest thing in a boy’s whole world. I slept fine after the movie’s end, but I never forgot it. Stills of the film stick to the lining of my subconscious like paintings in a museum. The tremendous use of solitude had captured me.

The lonely boy sits bundled and guarded next to the vampire, who is warm even in the cold. Taken from the film's trailer.
The lonely boy sits bundled and guarded next to the vampire, who is warm even in the cold. Taken from the film’s trailer.

Films like The Shining and Let the Right One In make me want to return in earnest to horror. Yet each time I want to embrace the genre it rejects the sincerity of its own messages and motifs so suddenly and purposelessly that I have to deny the genre. I have to refuse it for something bolder. I have to find genres that have the guts and gore to say something real at the cost of pulling back on some emotional punches.

I am not calling for the end of all modern scary movies. I really want to love horror. Nor am I lobbying that all horror must be fine art. Slashers can deliver on themes too, and I don’t want to live in a world without them. Rather, I want to rally against what makes horror lifeless: the way it murders its own messages, motifs, and themes.

The View from a Train to Tibet, Part One


Towards the end of a semester spent abroad in China, our class went on some study trips. After weaving through most of the mainland we got on a day long train ride to Lhasa, Tibet. Trying to pass the time on a long train ride to Tibet, I turned to my journal. However, as I tried to get my thoughts on paper, the scenery got my complete attention. So I chose to write about that instead.

The writing became pretty consuming, and I did not take any pictures. The window’s reflection would have made most of them look pretty bad anyways. Still, to give some idea of what I am describing I interlaced some pictures of the Tibetan Plateau I took when off the train into the article.

The sky looks crystal clear. I did not think any patch of sky could look so clear and empty. White clouds drift in immaterial puffs over towering mountains. The soft trails of white from broken clouds melt into the light blue sky. All around the train a mile or so of flat land spans out into the distance. Scattered settlements dot the landscape and herds of sheep graze at the start of distant slopes. Winding roads punctuate the wide, flat, empty terrain.

At points the grass yields to small streams of translucent water creating dark green swamps marked with little ferns. The water is so clear that brings bits of the sky to earth in form of reflections. The clouds come to the earth in small puddles. Three billboards drift by, the first I had seen so far, though more would come here and there.

I wonder if the CCP will give me 99 cents for posting this picture
Some of the clearest sky I had ever seen

The train started to pass by massive lake Qinghai. The lake spread out for miles alongside us, and encompassed the setting sun. The lake shimmered on endlessly into the distance. The sunlight ran in long golden stretches across the earth. It sat cut in half by the ground, like a sparkling orange mountain rising up from a massive lake. Lake Qinghai carried the sun’s gleam to the shore right near the train. The brilliance of the light bouncing off the water shined so brightly that I could not stare straight into it. I stared instead at the way the bulbous conglomeration of sheer light broke off in pieces at the side. I tracked the light of the lake the same way I would try to look at a burning star.

The bright and endlessly wide, shimmering blue salt lake still haunts me as I write now. Looking at Qinghai felt like staring a deity straight in the iris. Not even words by the thousands can capture the magnificent way the Qinghai reflected the sun’s final blast of light.

The sun looks to visit other parts of the world. It leaves a sublime goodbye through dark orange rays illuminating less and less of the rising and falling knolls, and the stretches of flat lands. Herds of furry yak look to graze on into the late evening. One yak sped off from the herd. The yak’s heavy, legless body bounded across the flat land spread out before the slight slopes of nearby hills. Its fur bounced with each bound.

The mountains in the distance grew dark, and human settlements become more spread out. The splotchy green sides of the not so steep but still tall mountains form up in the distance. Earlier the sun lit up the far distance. In it, I could see steep sloped, towering mountains capped with snow. It looked like a scene wrapped around a bottle of water.

A perfectly lucid gloom surrounds the far spread of land now. Past the mild slopes a massive brown plateau shoots violently up from the undulating earth. It recedes and the land turns back to the rise and fall of gently sloping hills. Some sharply steepen up and form strange crags. We are now so high that the clouds flirt with the mountain tops. My breath shortens as I look at the mountains climb to meet the sky.

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Now the slopes rose sharply and widely up, but still in great circular bulges of earth like smooth waves of dirt. They roll up to the cliff sides that shoot up to touch wispy grey clouds. One hill jaggedly broke into a shorter altitude. The cliff ran along the hill until it pushed into the smoothness of it, creating a corridor of flatter, lower earth within the grassy knoll. The pattern of the cliffs almost looked like a pagoda, wide at the base and rising up thin into the side of the hill. It even had sides that splintered inward, looking like the way the roof of a pagoda pushes out at each floor.

I wish my pen could grab hold of all the wondrous landscapes around me. Some images must slip through. I do not have the time to do all of it justice; I do not have the ability to do any of it justice. The progress I made will have to do fine enough. The night comes soon and the thin light turns all the distant mountains into only rising shadows. The darkness blurs the lines and the mountains all blend into the back of one massive and shifting form. In one big poof the low and high lands merged together. They rise and fall, waving goodbye as night covered the train windows up completely.

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~Austin R Ryan

Why I write


I mused to myself in what normally might have served as a journal entry. I tried to pin down what exactly kept me writing, when I saw a post on WordPress offering thought on what other people write and writing out of jealousy. I had the feeling myself some, and still receive it in less frequent bursts nowadays. The post rambles a lot, and lacks clarity. I write most things for myself, but edit them for others. This was no easy edit. But below, in strange and uncertain terms, I explain why I write. As ever, but particularly now, I hope you gain as much reading it as I did writing it.

Everything’s marked by fine lines and people cross at intersections until the pencil marks blur into gray. The landscape painting becomes blackened smudges across a white canvas. I struggle with why I do things. Not knowing does not bother me, nor does thinking. If they got under my skin then I’d have shed this layer long ago. But I do get tired. Everyone does, and we all have to recharge. I have observed people as best I can from my specially tinted shades. I have many ideas, most flawed, but I do think people need to recharge. It gets exhausting to exist. Something’s got to shock the spark back into people. At least, something has to have kept us going this long. Other animals might do well with a good meal but man needs an inch more.

A human being needs something to invigorate the endless repeat. No matter how far the churn of progress pushes us, we still feel each moment of misery so sharply. More life and less death but there’s still something on the TV to complain about. Perfection’s not a point to reach. At least I cannot see it. If I could, I’d never believe it. So long as it eludes us, we have to make do with what we got. We have to accept that conscience creates context, and we will live in that context every day.

There’s painters that put a life together one calculatedly brilliant stroke at a time. Art’s their occupation. What a word to use. It is like your work invaded the country side of your life and set down some barricades. There are these people on wordpress that will shoot a like at my post before it’s been up a minute. As soon as they can they spread their name and their word. Some folks will hit it big here, and many more are trying to right now. It takes effort by the pound and desire by the tons. What would you have me say? I want to write like they write? I want to pour it in and out and exercise it daily to hit it big. I want an interview on day time TV and an Oprah sticker over the synopsis on the back. I want to live putting the pen to the page. Until what? Until the occupation comes. Until the countryside of my mind’s accepted the central state’s apparatus. Until they’ve given up all their grain and said, “fine, feed whatever fire you want.”

Do you want me to admonish that I have never lived in that rapturous moment of desire? How would you like me to answer, if you asked me why I write? That I am out to make it. That I am out to feed the economy with paper purchases. I am here to pump resource into the minds and across the mouths of your friends. Or would you rather I say I was Ting from the start? I just did. I set it all clear from the straight start. Then I sat you down in front of honest work. Beautiful, original work fashioned from a famished mind and full heart. Maybe I am here to motivate you right now. Maybe I am hear to make it larger than life so that every instant of my impermanent instance of existence can eschew across etches of intercrossing black lines coursing across the canvas. I have thought myself in circles until I lied down like a dog and fallen asleep. And I’ll do so again in no short time from now.

Here I set and here I stand. I once wrote for love of a life larger than my own. I wanted words to communicate the brilliance of my ever thinking mind. I never got that my brilliance, if real at all, exists only with another’s dullness. If I am a brand than you are the unbranded and my effort at understanding would singe your skin, and no higher either of us would be. I would shine like I were special, but a light that leads the way can burn. Much worse it can burn out. I wanted a piece of immortality worn by words and born across the rivers of time and valleys of space. I wanted those words to return to me with bags of money. I wanted them to come back with an audience that understood. More than anything else, I wanted that perfect understanding

I did not start so selfishly. I did not do it all for dollars and hollers. There was a fun in it. But for years I could never corner it. I never knew what that fun was, and how I got to it. Half the time I chased after the perfect words and loved each footfall in the race. The other half I forced it. Each step became a struggle. And I said to myself all the running could get me far. I did not know in what direction. I did not know why I wanted distance at all. I just chased, sometimes against the goal. When it felt fun, it would all flow like a river ran beneath my feet. When it dragged, I swam up the creek and into the current. My thoughts became a waterfall contorting across my body. They pulled me back. Images of fame and glory became growing pains. Cutting in swift pangs, my mind sliced me apart as I crawled up the current. Beleaguered and bedraggled I’d drag my mind mangled self onto the shore. I’d hope I waded up enough in the stream. And I’d ask if I still wanted any of it. Did I want even a letter left in the word “Author”? “Well fuck,” I’d reply, “I thought I wanted at least all parts of ‘writer’.”

Currents tend to dash things on the rocks. Here I set, here I stand, and to here I’ve swum. Figuring out the fun’s what it’s about. Let the military men set about occupation. They’ll free the majesty in their minds, and the peasants of their countrysides will emblazon the word “author” all across the fantastic slopes and flats of their heads. I am here. I work, I think, I talk, and I get tired. I want something invigorating to rewind the clock. I want to set my mind in starvation so I can start it all over again. Let me light up the page like woodcarver Ting broke down the branch. Let me starve my mind. The before and the after may become bloated. They may inflate with thoughts of success and failure. But the during, the nitty gritty of pounding every key again and again until these endless hovering bits of meaning shatter together into some broken up shit storm of menial thought, that belongs to me. That belongs to me because that’s my moment to wipe my slate clean. I hold onto it until it lets itself go. I’ll edit it in the morning. I’ll set it straight by night. I’ll post it in the afternoon, and I’ll tag it in the evening. But the moment I set on it I clear my slate.

I once wanted fame and fortune. Still they glitter like gold. Maybe they are. But I want a metal I can fight my battles with, not over. I want no metals at all. I want no distinctions, no anything. I just want a clear moment. I want the silence at the center of the storm. Bring me the vision in the eye of the tornado, words, and I will keep at you. I write to fast from the frenzy of fullness, until I can live life a bit emptier. Or live it however it fits. Or stop the prepositions and words letter by letter until I arrive right to the punctuation mark.

~Austin R Ryan

Wide and Wider Still, Part 1


What comes after that breath? I still do not really know. I suppose the simple response would be another breath. If I got more complex, I’d say a step.

I stepped out of my room and towards my internship meeting. It came time to return to the flow. Sea of troubles, waves of worry, or rivers of raving, it did not matter. When I got there we all sat down and heard the head of the program talk. He explained that the American internship market worked like “free love”. Interns and business mingled like eager singles. Sometimes something worked out, maybe for a year, maybe for a ten, and other times it never got off the ground. The applicant and the business kept moving. In China internships work like arranged marriages. Usually Chinese firms can find people to hire. They do not need interns, and if they take them it is to cultivate a connection. Companies allow Peking University to give them interns to develop a positive relationship with the university. Naturally our performance at our internships would reflect on Peking. The pressure started to mount and I felt a little worried. He assured us that most people enjoyed their internships. At worst, interning would bore us. I felt a bit better about it.

I wondered just how I would get to my job and when I would start. After everyone had their questions answered, we filed down the hallway and waited outside of an office. We went in one by one and received a slip of paper with contact information. It affirmed me just to have a number in my hand that I could use to contact my employers. Now I would get the ball rolling. I could start my semester knowing what I would head into. I do not know the veracity of such a self-statement. You never know what you get yourself into. Not fully, anyways. Someone could tell you every little bit you’d see under the sun. You would forget half of what you heard by the time you got to where you needed to be. That’s what gives it a sense of beauty though. That clash of known and unknown. It is all that great black empty space that makes each star seem so bright. Who is to say all that black’s empty if it can illuminate like it does? When I look up the sky seems fuller than I could ever grasp, constantly brimming with something so light or so dark.

There’s a lot to be said about largeness, but in that moment I was not about talking. I got lunch with the kid I met from the airport and we had a merry enough time. Of course, I would end up talking with him little after that. We did not share classes or interests. But sometimes matters of friendship become as much chance as cherry picking. Maybe other men and women dig for gold. I’ll root for the potato’s my nature’s given me. After all they’re hardy! What’s more, potatoes won’t prove me the fool. Besides, gold’s just the standard. I don’t want my friends being sold over the TV. No, I’ve gone cherry picking before, and it’s never set me so right as the dirt beneath my feet.

The rest of the night I spent eating pizzas and drinking beer. Inebriation reduces the way your mind bristles at your skin, that’s for certain. But let me say, I’d take the biting cruelties of sobriety any day. I like to slip from the sensitive surface layers of my brain like any man. My mind manages its reprieves where it can, relapsing to more simple synapsing beneath waves of floating melodies or drifting smokescreens. The only problem’s that my stomach’s weak, and it can’t go flying off the handle like the head. It needs the earth above the sky, and I don’t begrudge it why. It helped my mind all the same to spend a day forgetting how wide the world would get.

The next morning we rode the subways and saw the mall area near the school. What a fascinating thing it is to devour food you cannot name in your native tongue. That’s when I started to marvel silently at the place I came to be. It is a funny thing, because everywhere’s bright, big, and wonderfully conjoined to the same massive pallet of dirt beneath our feet. I stood beneath the buildings spreading wide and far. In that moment the wide blue sky spread out over the endless city. At eye level posh Chinese teens wore T-shirts bloated with broken English, while homeless men and women lay collapsed around their tin cups. It all came out of a different world and it all felt shocking. We came in delivered on the same sort of planes. We poured off the same sort of underground railways. But once I got off the boat and onto the shore, I saw the ocean spread its long arms out. I saw how foreign the far off coast really was. It feels strange and has yet to leave me. I wonder, even going back and returning to the familiar, if I could ever shake it. At the time it seemed a bit overwhelming when heaped all over my worries and cares. I did not think too hard on it.

At the time, I had to start up all sorts of new classes, learn all sorts of new things, and encounter new brands of struggles. I did not really want to face the wideness of the world grinning at me. I would have had it put off another day. Though, it may never have come another day or in another place. It took really going far off from home in a place very different to comprehend how wide the world is. Seeing the vast blue sky turn into endless black space seems all the more illuminating now. There’s a great deal out there beyond me. Beyond even what I know, or may ever know in my short life. But wherever I go, I do feel certain about that now. I did earlier too. Perhaps now the certainty feels stronger. There’s something reassuring in that strength, though I cannot say what. Maybe it gives me something to hold on to while the river roars up to my ears.

During classes I did not have the same feeling. It all felt like a bit too much to grapple with. Luckily classes went pretty well at the start. My teachers all seemed interesting and earnest. The Chinese professors looked poised to try very hard to teach us the language. That was good. They would need the moxie. Learning a language is hard. Teaching it is even harder. It further reassured me to see other students who knew no Chinese. Maybe I was stupid for going to China unprepared. At least now I knew a company of fools just as unprepared as I. As a group you can devise excuses for why you ever made the mistake of it. Can a man in a crowd ever feel like irrational? Though I do not think any of us made a mistake going here. I do not think it was irrational either. We just hamstrung ourselves a bit.

The economics teacher has an extensive English vocabulary. She walks with tremendous posture. Despite being small, she almost seems tall. Something in her bearing seems royal. She lectures calmly and carefully, wondering a bit between each thought. It is not a perfectly clean or energetic lecture class. Still, something seems very interesting about it. I could not put my finger on it. Even from the first day it felt intense almost without energy. I had teachers like that before and still find it hard to explain the vibe precisely. Perhaps my own desire to get my China specific studies made it that way. I remember another kid felt much more bored by the whole affair than I. None of us knew how it would turn out by the end of the first day, anyways.

I would have my economics and multi-ethnic classes once a week. They were three hour long block classes. I disliked the format. I would prefer two classes a week in shorter segments. It would allow us to review more readings and break up the material. Besides that, any subject gets old after a good two and a half hours of sitting. I start to zone out. We would have five Chinese classes every week. We have two on Mondays and Wednesdays. A two hour long class would teach us general Chinese, and a fifty minute class would drill us on speaking. Every other Friday we would have a quiz over the material. If there was no quiz we would have class as normal. The main class had homework for us pretty much every day. I have learned a lot of Chinese. The class worked me harder than most others I can think of. I gradually came to understand how busy I would be.

The understanding became all the more real when I went to my internship. I emailed my boss and asked for directions. He gave me an amusingly convoluted path to follow. It featured a lot of visual association. When I woke up and made my way to my workplace for the first time, I really understood why. The subway was easy, but the streets were not. In a city so old, it becomes hard to lay out streets just how you would like. They get twisted and gnarled into weird paths. People set up in strange places along the way. Sometimes they end up blocking the path. In a city like Beijing, every bit of space mattered too. Endless amounts of tiny human innovations placed houses in all sorts of unsuspected alleys and corners. Parts of the city look brand new. Others look very old. They all mesh and fall into one great clump that is “Beijing”. Navigating that clump can really frustrate someone illiterate to the Chinese language. Literacy is quite the task too. Even the lowest level of letter-learned knows a minimum of 3,000 characters. I did not understand at first why my boss gave mostly visual instructions. Trying to navigate Beijing in my free time taught me why. Even if you could read, they lacked clean, easily accessible addresses. They lacked wide streets falling on a centrally designed grid. Beijing has its beauty. It has its ugly too. In both cases it is a clump. One sprawling, living, breathing behemoth of humongous human energy packed tight. I get a new story every time I try and navigate the vascular networks spindling across this Goliath. Soon I’ll tell you the first of many stories I’ll forget before long. Let’s shatter them and diffuse the bits through memory. Lets watch time tenderize them into something chewable. Let’s watch memory metamorphisize what happened. When we’ve turned into butterflies, let’s fly together and see what became of the cocoons.

 

~Austin R Ryan

Travelling


            Travel makes me anxious. Ever since I understood what returning and leaving meant, I feared the action of both. Destinations only feel real in flickers. When the sun shines the right way, reality drops like the other shoe. My brain claps and realizes something’s new. The realization goes as quick as it comes. Mostly, a day is a day and living’s living. Routine’s the thing you should watch for.

When you have a routine anything feels familiar. The routine can revolve around change. Those instances of travel feel more foreign than the destination. They are unfamiliar. When I assume anything of an airport I am reminded not to. They have the same soaring ceilings. They have the same tired out TSA or custom workers. They have the same endlessly revolving conveyor belts full of luggage. But every time I go to airports these little changes shake people up like fissures and earthquakes. I’ve heard all sorts of bitching and berating about how this never happened last time. I loathe airports and airlines. I am charged one thousand dollars, and can only bring a carry on and personal bag. If I bring a carry on that’s too large, it gets put in luggage, and I may get charged. I cannot pack anything important into my checked bag, though. That’s a rookie mistake. Your laptop gets lost in transit. One thousand dollars a ticket is not enough to screen out the thieves. Of course, if I bloat my carry on, it ends up in the same place. So I saddle it all in my backpack, my personal bag. Fittingly, the things that matter feel the heaviest. I haul them across the uniformly tiled terminals. But you cannot fight airports. They suck. The airlines do too. However, the more you lose your cool, the worse it gets. You have to move and adapt, because the white washed walls and pillars create a fine facade.

In a way it was a good mentality to start with. Just work with what happens. I tried to keep myself from fighting against the flow of travel. It was not so hard. My dad and I made it to Chicago, and then to the airport with ample time and ease. My anxiety caused all sorts of sharp little movements. When you don’t go watching it, your body and mind match each other. My hands shook while my mind rattled through this nonsense about airports and destinations.

I had no problem getting on the international flight from Chicago to Shanghai. As luck would have it, I sat by a Chinese mother and daughter. We shared friendly banter and tried to working past our language barriers. Unfortunately I hardly knew any Chinese. It poked at a raw nerve. I realized how the little Chinese I learned did not matter much. The Chinese they spoke sounded so separate from Rosetta Stone’s calm cadence. It did keep me studying and focused. I poured over my notecards, and they even corrected a few. They helped with pronunciation too, but that slipped too easily from my mind.

I got into Shanghai about on time and got through customs pretty quick. The line was long, but I did not mind much. I spent the time talking with another student who had been to Beijing. The vaunted stamp in the passport made any stress worthwhile. Those stamps always felt like stories. Though I supposed the real tales came from the conversations with strangers walking the same path.

The Shanghai airport did not seem foreign or exceptional in any real way. It seemed like any other airport. I breezed through it like any other airport. Heading up to the air china booths, I tried to get my ticket. The machines would not process me so they took me to a teller. I gave them my information. Here’s where the routine got shattered. I needed to re-check my bag. In literally every other airline I have heard of or used, you just got your bag at the final destination. Instantly my hands shook and I started to sweat. I set my feet back towards the baggage claim. I had time, but anxiety reasons less than it demands. I felt I needed to move fast, so I did.

Going back to the baggage claim actually meant going through security. I agreed because I had to. My confusion was secondary at best. The short delay stressed me out more than it ought to have. The black conveyor belt spit out bag after bag. I watched it patiently for my black bag. Instantly I wished I brought a big hot pink suitcase. Black on black on black. Even a grey suitcase would have stuck out. I knew the look of my bag. I still felt each black bag for my name tag. Nothing called for me. I waited until the airport attendant told me no more bags would come.

At this point I wanted to panic. I did not know the language. Most of them did not know mine. I was a long way from home facing that fact the process of filing for a lost bag might make me miss my plane. I did not know basic grammar, let alone how to reschedule a flight. I kept control of my anxiety here. Oddly enough it did not involve swallowing it like a pill. I just rode off the nervousness and smiled. I did not fight the possibility that this would suck. It very well would. I had to move forward. The conveyor belts don’t run backward. At least I could get an English attendant and probably find another flight.

I got the form to file for missed luggage, when someone with Air China pulled me to a side area where my bag sat on a cart. In my rush, I overlooked an area bloated with lonely bags. I grabbed it quick, and started to run for the ticket counter. I hardly had time to process the depth of my error. Ironic, considering haste caused it all in the first place. I did not have a lot of time. I had enough to thank my good luck. I’d take luck over language and intellect any day.

The woman read my ticket once it printed. She started furious conversation with the woman next to hear. She told me my flight was boarding. Furthermore, my bag had some sort of liquid in it. I needed to check it at the gate. We ran down to an expedited version of security. They ran me through as quick as they could. I set to running to my gate, carrying my 45 pound bag. I would have been the pinnacle of fitness if I made myself run that hard every day. The bag rolled roughly behind me, but I kept it at balance. My feet would start to slow, forcing me to hammer my legs back into gear. At that moment I really felt I had to make it. A few passengers casually stood in line, waiting for someone to take their tickets. My heart soared. My legs took a rest. A smile stretched across my face. Finally, the breaths came easy.

The worker handling the tickets made an audible and sympathetic sigh when she saw the sweat stream from my brow. She took the ticket stub, and let me through. I strode through the long aisle connecting me to Beijing. It felt like a victory I nearly was not expecting. The man next to me must have been worried. A sweaty, panting white kid with a big dumb smile sat down next to him. I could not have smelled good either. More than anything I felt silly. I put so much drama in getting there and nearly forgot where I was headed in the first place. I dreamt about this. For years I yearned to learn about the soil I soared over. I spent hours of independent study trying to grasp the grain of a country now in my palm. A few small pops of laughter leaked out. I forgot this was all part of my journey to the East.

Nowadays things are strange. The journey starts at the destination. We plowed trails with worn feet once. Our horses hooved their way through deserts and decay. In our old travels we stumbled on blocks of ancient civilizations. Villages took us in for days when we could not beat the weather, for gain or goodwill. Now mostly we zip and glide regardless. We still get snagged on slip ups. There are less bumps but we stumble just the same because we’ve learned to mind our feet less. Life’s about the journey. They have said and I’ve agreed. But where’s the line between journey and destination drawn. Who demarcates that, and what’s their agenda? When I got on that plane to Beijing I told myself the travel stopped. No. The sand erased the line. I am not sure it was there to begin with. The disappearance of that line made the desert all the harsher and all the more beautiful.

 

~Austin R Ryan

The Grand Send Off


Bit by bit my travel plans materialized. Each step steepened their reality. At the start of the summer I told people I planned to go to Beijing. I did not feel the meaning behind those words. In life and in travel we head to destinations we have an idea of. I longed for that idea. We do not know the exact of our endings. Rarely do I long for something I’ve never glimpsed.

I remember my beginnings. I hope not to forget them. I began this trip with the summer. I did not acknowledge it then, but I started the trip to Beijing as soon as I got back and got a job. My family could have generated much needed revenue for my living in Beijing. I wanted to contribute. I wanted one less thing to worry about, but I got much more.

The pink and baby blue color scheme helped me find my way back.
My old home

The beginning gave me more to think about than I bargained for. In the first month of returning to my home town of Indianapolis from my university in DC I realized that I would not want to return to my old hometown. DC beckoned with its full list of opportunities and events. I love my hometown but it lacked. No one told me what going to DC would mean. Maybe I ought to have known. I believed it meant space and nothing more. I believed I would return to old friends and family and live in Indianapolis. New friends and interests run deep in DC. They feel like currents carrying me from home. Going to DC meant living far from home and learning to give control to the currents carrying me. Living in DC meant missing friends in Indy. Moving to DC placed me in a tidal flow much harder to enter than to leave.

The idea of home started to shift. Home felt far away during the summer, bottled up in a university and town I knew only for four semesters. Indy no longer meant the same thing to me. My old Hoosier social circles percolated out across the states. I still see many an old friend during the summer but by the day that I graduated less and less people would await me in Indy. Naptown lacked the attractions to keep us entertained in our wild 20’s. We had to scatter to sow wild oats. These Midwestern suburbs raised children. So many of us thought we needed more to become men, be it the distance of an hour or ten.  How it surprises to lose a hometown.

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Early on in the summer I did not consider what going to Beijing meant. The physical distance of my travel symbolized the length of reality that separates the old and new. I would find my family for Christmas again and again. But my time with them dwindles from summers, springs, and autumns to the winters. My family and I would never diverge. My friends and I will. In the limited winter breaks, I never know who I will see and for how long. Lost friends loom like a monsoon flooding out currents old and new.

Just days before departure I dropped by two friends. We headed to my house to relax. Over the years we developed a habit of taking night time walks through my neighborhood. The neighborhood featured three blocks, three esplanades, three large fountains, six rows of houses, one town hall, and a veil of ancient trees. We stepped underneath the moonlight pouring through the cracks in the veil of leaves above us. The fountains poured away as we talked. I wanted to fall fully into conversation and empty every inch of me. I could not. Fear gripped me. It created a harsh irony. I wanted to say goodbye to so many people, but every time I tried the muscles in my mouth froze. I was moving on. I was moving on and I chose every step. Grief and greatness arrive in the same strokes. These steps lead to the edge of a cliff. So we plunge.

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My friends and I trekked to a gas station down the street. We bought unhealthy snacks and soft drinks and ran amuck on sugar for as long as we could. It threw me back to the way I used to be in high school. Looking back could not distract me from the path ahead. Beijing dominated my mind. Studying in such a foreign land felt like distraction enough. I chose to layer it with the thought of slowly shifting into a new life.

The Open sign at the gas station buzzed to life letter by letter. The word tried to flourish all in one glow, but did not coordinate properly. I knew things were still open. I knew I could change paths after Beijing, DC, or elsewhere. The old signs just did not glow with same life.

Perhaps I should look for symbolism in more important places
The old Open Sign

My journey starts with goodbyes. I start with a broken down open sign outside of a gas station and drive to O’Hare international airport. It feels dramatic to me, but I am not putting on a production. This is just what happens. This is how we grow and fall away into new currents and flows. People do this every second, every day. All the while they think as madly as me. Not everyone goes to Beijing, but we all travel and we all reshape ourselves around newer and newer settings. I have got no claim to a great story. Likely, you won’t uncover anything crazy, different, or worth reading here. You’ve only got my eyes here. I will give you what they have to offer as I go. If you truly want a good look, you’ll have to brave the waters yourself.

~Austin R Ryan

America My Love, Refrain 4


Have you ever woke up to find

You’ve no one to confess too?

 

Yes it breeds sin terrible and true

to not have some outlet through and through.

I speak to this page and he keeps me sane.

I tell my stupid small secrets of self-pain

 

But I never hurt myself so bad

As a few kids in clad, black

Kids can curse and hack, hearty

Even if you’re a cute and tarty, queen

You can quite quick adopt a scene, dark

Start writing shitty stark, songs

Fill poems with wrongs, in word

Taken from blaspheming herd, dead

With long dysfunction dread, lost

To commemorate your holocaust, wedded

With the wrist-blood you sweated, quick

Almost surprised by the response to a flick, slit

 

But if the emo kids

took a paltry pause

and bothered to listen

They’d hear the conductor’s voice say:

 

Please keep your blood

inside the body

at all times during the ride

Please discard

all of your baggage

before boarding the body.

if you need help securing yourself

contact the nearest priest

 

Ah, yes…

I know the tunes quite well.

The squalling of various clientele

ringing along to the drum beats

of their internal hell

 

It used be that you had to gossip

and you had to churn

out every piece of humanity

In the story marked

on the face of your neighborhood

 

But now people languish

in facebooks and tumblrs

twitters and emails

 

Not an ounce abated

by knowing that cries of help

are so damn dated

 

It’s all there

Packaged and assembled

By the foot of your door

 

Friend four thousand and seven

Meeting a massive mid-midlife crisis

 

Friend three hundred and twelve

Trying to find a major in which to delve

 

Who knows?

Maybe even friend 3

slipping very silently

into the throws of insanity.

 

Oh, the humanity!

 

When you’re at the opera

be sure to grab

One of those Plush balcony seats

well above

The stamping of staged feet

the noise is distracting

And you might miss the acting

 

And don’t forget

Your petite pair of binoculars

You have hidden

beneath the flat of your cushioned throne

without them

You might just stare someone to stone

with the squinting of

Your eyes so prone

 

~Austin R Ryan