Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ryan Stark

It is safe to assume that most people
reading this
won’t personally know
an upstanding Gentleman named Ryan Stark,
who was raised in the Old Southwest of Reno, Nevada
and who currently resides in Oakland, California
where he owns and manages a coffee shop called
The Black Spring Coffee Co.

But despite this
I believe
if you stick with me
to the end

you will probably have
a fair idea
of who Mr. Stark is
and what he is all about.

The thing is
I like coffee shops.
Doesn’t matter.
I enjoy the vibe.
It helps me concentrate.

But I can only abide them during a
brief window of time;
Just after they’ve opened
to just before the morning rush.

I sit here, so happy,
despite the fact that
in just a couple short hours
The pastry display will look like Normandy Beach
with a ripped in half
Red Berry Cheesecake Danish
left bleeding out in the arms of some
crumbled Blueberry Scone
and all those luscious BMT Chicken Salad Sandwiches 
will be snatched up,
leaving their far less desirable Turkey Havarti counterparts
to face this miserable world all alone.

And the napkin dispenser will be empty
And the trash will overflow
And the infants will scream
And the crazy homeless dudes will need corralling

And this silent air will be shattered
by the barking
of some bitchy dude,
Or some dudey bitch,
in a slick business suit

Who has to take a single precious second away
from his or her
Bluetooth conference convo
in Japanese, no less,
to yell at this poor barista chick because



And then the barista will say,

“Gee, dude, I don’t know, man.
Maybe we boned up your order,
maybe we didn’t . . . 
but either way,
I feel like you might be
over-reacting just a smidge.

"Because if you being
five minutes late to work today
is really going to effect your life
that much,

"then maybe you shouldn’t have
stopped in here to get a coffee
in the first place,

"And maybe
just a little bit of this 
you’re experiencing right now
is, like, I don’t know, maybe
just a little bit
Your Fault.

"Perhaps I’m just like 
a tiny insignificant integer
In the gigantic, unwieldy,
cluster fuck of a math problem 
that your life is turning out to be,

"The same way that Welfare
for instances
is only a tiny fraction of one per cent
of the United States Federal Budget,

"And maybe this whole entitled,
self-destructive, narcissistic thing you’ve got going on
is like,
the true culprit here . . .
not me.

I'm just some chick 
who makes coffee.

“And dude:

“Just a nice thing.
Not the end all.
Not the be all.
Just a good thing.

“A thing that brings comfort
'Joy' is even too strong a word.
It's a friendly chemical nudge
that eases you towards all the shit
you just gotta get done today.

“And I get that you’re important
and I bet you’re even a tolerable,
hell, even likeable
when you’re not being a
total fucking cataclysm

"But you gotta understand, man,
I got tons of other people just like you
every minute of every day,
and they're all having their own personal meltdowns

"Over nothing but,
let’s face it,
over priced,
heated up,
bitter water.

“And I’m like an artist,
or something,
and I only took this job because
I thought it was kinda romantic
or something

"And as stupid as it probably sounds to someone like you,
I just want to use my dumb art
to share all the beauty I see
in the world,
with the world
And right now,
You are killing that for me.

“Because I want to like you, dude,
I really do!
But for real,
You make me feel nothing but contempt and disgust
for everyone on earth.

"And sometimes
I just want to set this whole goddamn place on fire
And watch you
And all these innocent little squealing babies
And that poor old homeless crazy veteran fuck
And all the rest them
just burn the fuck alive

"because you just treated me
like garbage
when I just gave you 
my best.”

for me at least,
None of this has happened

The hour is still early.
The sun has barely begun pulling
itself out of the mighty Atlantic.

It is calm.
It is serene.

The pastry display is immaculate.
The sandwich cooler looks like the White House 
after a fresh coat of paint.
The napkin dispensers, the straw cups, and the coffee sleeve holders are all
Locked, Cocked, and Ready 2 Rock.

Each stone-faced piece of 
metal and plastic and paper and compost 
looks completely undaunted
by the impossible task
that lie ahead.

Besides myself,
there is only one other customer
in the coffee shop.

He is a regular looking guy
of average height and middle age.
Dressed plainly,
he does not stand out
to me
or anyone else.

I watch the man order
a medium cup of coffee.
He pays for his drink,
tosses a buck into the tip jar,
then continues on to the milk and sugar table.

He pours himself a moderate amount of cream
along with a single serving of Sugar In The Raw,
and then proceeds to give his brew
a slow, methodical stir.

No rush.

Nowhere he needs to be.

Just taking a moment to make sure 
that his coffee
turns out
just how he likes it.

He has shown up early
after all
For this express reason.

Then he drops the stirrer and
the sugar packet
straight into the bottom 
of the empty waste-basket.

And that's when this man,
this stranger
does something
that I find 
So beautiful

So inspiring
that I am forced to forget 
all my plans I had for the morning
to write this instead.

Because it is at this moment when
this Gentleman before me
swipes a single napkin out of the dispenser
in one crisp motion
like a Marine saluting a Five Star General.

He leaves no millimeter of napkin
still inside the dispenser
and doesn't draw the next napkin out
leaving it to an undignified end
where it would have been left to languish
devoid of purpose on the counter.

He uses his single napkin
to mop up not only whatever slight mess
he might have made,
But he also wipes down
the greater Napkin, Sugar Packet, and
Milk Holder Region.

He leaves the entire area looking as
as it was when the store
first opened.

It’s a simple, modest gesture
But it tells me
a great deal.

It tells me that there are still a few people
Rare people
A criminally minuscule percentage of people
Who know the score,

They recognize the circus,
They can smell the animals,
They know that despite all our best intentions
And our utmost due diligence

This Crazy Train we're all riding
is leading us straight to the heart of Pandemonium,
The State Capital of Hell itself
No matter what.

Can't stop it.
Can't change it.

But they won't participate in it.
They won't retreat from it.

They’ll fight against it
knowing they don’t stand a chance.
Accepting certain defeat
Before they even begin.

And it reminds me
of the first man
besides my father 
that I ever really admired,

The first Stoic, 
True Blue
Righteous Dude

I ever did have
the distinct pleasure
of knowing.

And I think of Ryan Stark
who was raised in the Old Southwest of Reno, Nevada.
And I smile.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Fat Shaming

It's great,
really GREAT
that you love yourself.

Fuck Yeah!


No amount
of self-esteem
can unclog
your arteries

No amount
of confidence
can stem the flood
of cancer cells
from ravaging your organs

And no amount
of swagger
can sidestep
that .45 caliber stroke
you've got whizzing
through your brain.

So good on you.

You've redefined the parameters of "beauty"
to the point where it also includes
all the vices that will lead to
your untimely demise.

Mission The Fuck Accomplished!

But the truth
the cold hard math of it

Is that you
are fat
and lazy
and going to die
far too early

And this is all
Your fault.

You can blame society.
Blame advertisers.
Blame photoshop
for making the food look so
and a healthy body look so

You can defend yourself
all you want.
Deep down
You know it's true.

wrapped in an education
are still nothing
but excuses.

But no one calls you fat.
No one calls you lazy.
No one calls you out.

You've got the whole world
that will-power
does not exist


no one wants to
hurt your feelings
while they watch you
kill yourself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Woman I Married

You are not the woman I fell in love with.
You are not the woman I married.
You are not.

The woman I fell in love with had perfect tits
and an ass most fly,
but she concealed these gifts in
plain sight so well
that even she no longer believed
that they were real.

The woman I fell in love with offered
apologies to everyone for everything
as though it were an essential phase
of a peculiar brand of cellular respiration
for organisms such as her
that have a biological need to constantly express regret
for taking up any space at all.

You are
not that woman.

The woman I married
was a master of disguise.
She snuck from milestone to milestone,
creeping between each grand accomplishment and dignified honor
as though at any moment the sirens might blare
and a SWAT team might descend
to take her away
and the worldwide news outlets would all report
how this little girl of negligible talent
and marginal intellect had ever
managed to defraud so many people
so many times.

The woman I married held her opinions
tight to her chest
vetting each of her words carefully
running background checks and
compiling a thorough dossier
before granting
them access to her tongue
for fear
that the air might fill with imaginary insults
the second after she left the room
and all the smiling faces that
she called friends would agree,
Oh my Gawd. What a bitch!

You are not the woman
I fell in love with
and married.

You are a shape-shifter.
Every morning it seems
the passage of night transforms you into
Someone stronger
Someone braver
Someone more self-assured
with more confidence
who commands more respect.

Listening to you calling out hippies
for all the ridiculous shit they believe
or extolling to your prudish friends in completely
unapologetic detail the many virtues of S&M and anal sex
without the slightest bit of fear or shame
is like music to my ears.
You are a song whose sweet melody
takes years
to begin to hum along to

And while you are not 
the woman I married
I love you and
I admire you
now more than ever

And judging by the trajectory of all 
the things I can measure
I will love you more tomorrow than I do today
And next year.
And next decade.
And next century.
And if I had a billion lifetimes
I wouldn’t waste one of them

without you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Small Dark Place

You are a fifteen-year-old girl.
You are standing in a closet
with a sixteen-year-old boy
who is beautiful and perfect in every way
Unlike you.

It’s dark
and you’re glad it’s dark
because you won’t have to see
how handsome he is and he won’t
have to look at how ugly you are.

And he’s only in here with you on a dare anyway.
And it’s now minute four of your fabled
Seven Minutes in Heaven
and so far Heaven seems like a pretty big misnomer
because neither of you have done anything
except share each other's oxygen.

But you are so close and the heat
from his body is so warm
it makes your knees tremble beneath
the shortest skirt that you’re
allowed to wear outside.

Then, as if cued by some silent alarm
some tiny explosion of hormones
a billion years in the making
the most perfect beautiful boy in God’s sweet earth
reaches out and touches you ever so gently
on your stomach

And without a thought
you instinctively reach out
and touch
his chest
and you’re almost surprised to find
that he is just as real as you.

And he leans forward.
And you kiss.
But this isn’t just your first kiss
--this is The Kiss--
The kiss by which you will measure all other kisses,
for as his lips meet yours and your tongue
slips heroically into his mouth
synapses all across your brain are firing off artillery
blazing a new path through the backcountry of your brain

Like an elusive flawless game of Oregon Trail where
Everybody lives
and John didn’t break his leg at all
and Becky doesn’t have dysentery at all
and the ford across the river always holds true.

And the plethora of sensory data gets compiled and
categorized and filed under a folder in your memory labeled 
And from now until the day you die
Every kiss that lands on your lips
from lovers both
GREAT and forgettable
will stroll down the same path 
that was carved out by this moment
with this perfect boy
in this small dark place
and all of your friends
on the other side of this closet door.

You feel his hand slip
from your stomach to your
left thigh
then up up up up up up up

He does it slowly
to give you ample time to stop him
to say No.
Want him
To stop.

And "Yes"
floats out of your mouth
on its own.

And you feel his fingers caressing
your sex before he
actually gets there and
the burning in your tummy
verges on torture

And it swells
And it aches.
And you hate it.

Then he slides his hand under your skirt and
over your sopping cotton underwear
and for the first time in your whole stupid life
you completely forget to be embarrassed by your body.
And you forget to be scared.
And time and fear and shame
have become as irrelevant to you as
The Naval War of 1812.

He has barely touched you
when you start to come.
You are coming and now and
you know why they call it coming,
Because you have arrived, Young Lady.
For the very first time your
body and your mind have aligned
to occupy the same space at the same time
without you riding on a flux capacitor to
next week’s chemistry midterm or 
last month’s birthday party.

And a rush of reward chemicals that have
evolved perfectly
over millions of years to
promote procreation
flood your brain.

And you submit
to the same biological obligation that
tethers you to the earth along
with every other living thing from
cheetahs to cockroaches.

And it’s so dazzling and repulsive,
so gorgeous and obscene,
that you start crying immediately,
drunk on the discovery of your own potent sexual power
The Girl
who can make it rain just by wetting her lips.
The Girl
whose expanding iris can summon a tidal wave.
The Girl
whose blushing cheeks could melt the polar ice caps.

And just as the last ribbon of your childhood
And twirls to the floor
The closet door flings open
And your tiny, most private of moments
Is flooded with light and
the shrieking catcalls of everyone
you’ve known
since grade-school.

And they saw everything.
And they know nothing.
And they will call you a slut
and a skank
and a whore
to punish you
for that moment
when you forgot 
to be afraid and ashamed
like them.

And the perfect
most beautiful boy on Earth
will prove himself
desperately flawed
and ugly
and common
and that will kill you.

And it will be decades
before you can put all this
in the right place.

When your breasts hang like boxing gloves.
When your thighs no longer quiver at a stranger’s touch.
When you can talk all night about his cock
and your cunt
without the slightest bit of blood redirecting to your cheeks.

And a kiss
Will be
Just a kiss.

And you will think back
to this moment

And your heart will

And your heart will

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

About Pussies

It is completely absurd that
people use the word “pussy”
As a symbol for weakness
and cowardice.

A woman’s pussy is tougher
And more gallant
Than any man who has ever lived.

Our entire species
on pussies dilating
--often ripping--
in order to usher in the next generation
of human beings.

You could lay a path
from the Earth to the Moon
and back again
a hundred times over
using only the vaginal tears
of the unimaginably resilient
and courageous women
who have faced this horror,
but still,
we have the nerve
--the sheer fucking audacity--
to refer to pussies
as symbols for the
weak and cowardly.

we use “balls” as a symbol
of strength and courage
when they are actually the most
sensitive and
vulnerable real-estate in
the observable universe.

It’s just