The Inevitability of Paint On the Fingers
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You only live but once. Static
sings, a cat screaming
from the car radio upside-down.

If life is music
then when is it wrongly played? Does music play wrong if turned asunder—
if the violinist plays knees-up from monkey bars
above woodchips, instruments that might have been? Must music only be proper
if sitting still, legs uncrossed, suit smelling of Laundromat detergent
and boutonniere roses from the florist?

This car – upside-down, static weeping out from the stereo grille
is twisted, smoking, dying in a body pile, a mass grave
kneeling before the church of the roadside cliff.

I rode my bike today
down a hillside, 35° angle straight down. Wind—
a world of its own, speed upon speed, I became white noise
rushing. And in the white of the world, corner of my eye, superglued CatEye mirror,
Styrofoam of my helmet: a car.

Does Death pursue humanity
like a shopper at a mall? Or is Death a lonely wolf
feet dragging in the snow, relentless
ever waiting for the chance for warmth?
This car turns when I do, veers
and I cannot pedal any faster. What is faster than I
but Death?

I consume frantically
a sponge, a student, a peer
a hummingbird, burning through my calories
starving for immortality, body forever breaking down
Should I live carefully?

Speed up on the mountainside road
pedal faster, heedless of the wobble.
Join the circus – receive an invitation
or no, don’t wait for them. Ask them—
hello, I wish to learn—
the flying trapeze, the silks, hoops, trampoline.

My generation has a saying—
You Only Live Once—
They have forgotten what it means. It does not mean
melting in a ruined car by a roadside cliff
Crayoning the road in your flesh, twisted in your bike
jumping from a stalled helicopter—
nor does it mean

faulting yourself for eating when hungry
hesitating before sending an email
declining an invitation to midnight sailing
(beneath the opal waves)
(with the fish, in the reef)
(in the Pacific). It means
living life to the fullest—
not to prove that you can
but because it is the only one you have.

When you dream lucid, what do you decide to do?
Do you sit at a desk and file reports?
Do you imagine a white box and hide inside, afraid of what you might see—
that you might act wrong, say an improper thing
and forever be stunted, hunch-backed from curling up
afraid of the world? Or do you summon a cloud of griffins
and fly on wings of your own, feathers brown
against a vermillion rose sky?
What is the difference from this, sleeping
and walking instead of skipping, waking?
You cannot paint without getting messy—
fear not the paint on the fingers.
Who cares if it isn't perfect
and isn't right the first time around. Lose the white noise—
if you fear death, let it be on mutual terms.
Death is a starving wolf. Give it a meal. Try your hand
at painting, at travelling, at hiking in the woods behind your home.
Go to the aquarium, ask for a volunteer position—
teach children and adults alike how to do surgery on a tuna’s eye.
This is not about wonder – I have written of that before. This time
we mean for joy. Losing the mist that lasts to midday. Why so dreary?
Make a list— is it the rain? Is it the boredom? Or maybe
is it that your body has stopped moving
and you wish for it to move on its own, to lose control?

Sometimes being good to yourself is hard.
Sometimes getting up from your chair
tearing your eyes from the flood
putting on clothes that fit
hitching up your socks
lacing up your shoes
(re-lacing, after the hooks fail to catch)
checking the weather
(pulling out your phone, signing in, waiting for loading
opening the weather app, loading
waiting, loading
waiting waiting waiting—

ah, no.

Sometimes it is hard to go outside.
So do it. Unchecked, untethered. Who cares if it’s raining?
Others, maybe, but it’s summer. Drag yourself out there
and smell the crisp air, the raindrops
the jasmine, the aroma of golden grass
(plumped to browning
waterlogged to rotting
readying the ground for Autumn)
and take the chance for the world—
walk away
(for now)
and know that you are here. Be present
in this world. There is no lonely wolf
behind that bush, around the corner. Examine the urge
to go inside, to burn
your hours, days, weeks, months, years—
to lose yourself, to allow yourself no accountability for being a person—
to say, I just didn't and move on, because never-haves are better than failure—
—feel this—

and let it go.

I’m so scared.
Do it scared.

You cannot paint without getting messy. Fear not the paint on the fingers. Maroon purple and red stain your fingers, interlaced with green and prussian blue, cloying and clogging your pores. Is it heavy metal, or is it something new? Only in time will your paintings eat, eat, eat away at your mind, burn you into something new and true. Only in time will you see if the world leaves its mark back.

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