Sing the Blues

What does it mean to be blue in the world?

What is the sound of blue? Blue like a donut, empty in the middle. Blue like a sticky note, scribbled with words long forgotten in context. Blue like an old sweater, cozy and warm. Blue like a calendar, lines of blank days waiting to be filled in. Blue reflected in my eyes, a quick glance and then looking away for fear of seeing all my worst demons glaring through the mirror.

When my heart turns blue and the sound of the clock ticking is like a hatchet hitting a tree trunk, chop chop chop, I wrap my arms around myself, I close my eyes, I swallow my tears. When my heart turns blue, turns from ruby to sapphire, pulsing with a light both cold and hopeful, I turn the lights down, I turn the sound of the ocean up, I look out at the moon and whisper its name. When my heart turns blue and night turns to morning, the stars still singing in the sky, the sun still sleeping, I dance around my head, all the space I could wish for, and think of writing oceanic words.

How blue does blue get? Blue as a kiss, blue as a dream, blue as a spark on the tip of a matchstick. How far down does blue go? Blue as old fruit fallen from an ancient tree, deep deep down in the underworld, on the shores of a blue blue ocean beneath a sky of cerulean stone. How far does blue go? Touching and tasting the ends of the cosmos, far far far from our little blue dot, one tiny sphere of stone and sea. How grand does blue get? Even when the chill, skeletal hands of loneliness bewitch my shivering skin, there is a blue light held in my hands and under my tongue and between my ears, waiting for a burst of sighs to set it free.

In a sparse white room, stuffed full of silence, there is blue singing songs of mad, grinning dreams and laughter that echoes across threadbare carpet. There are blue notes tacked to the pale walls with sigils to drive away dusty ghosts. There is my heart, turned from red to blue, jewelled forever, prismatic and brilliant, deep deep down in the cavern of my chest.


Compass Rose

how long can i feel like this?
cracked & crushed under the weight of stars
i wish i could speak with my blood
i wish my world turned in that direction
but for now
i keep whispering to shadows
hiding my heart in my skull

i will gladly accept all the sugar life offers me
fighting off the lonely void with a song
i will bear the weight of starlight
wishing i could play the fool
but for now
i keep whispering to shadows
hiding my heart in my skull
dreaming of a time
when the world might change its direction


Book of Dreams

I’ve read that one way to trigger lucid dreaming is to look at something printed because writing is always unreadable in dreams, unless you take control of the dream. Look at the writing, see it as blurry, fuzzy letters or unknown symbols, realize it’s a dream, take control and make the writing focused. Now, I’ve never had success with lucid dreaming. As soon as I realize I’m in a dream, I wake up. (This sometimes makes me worried that at times when I feel like I’m awake, moving through the waking world, something strange will happen, I’ll realize I’m in a dream, and I’ll be instantly pulled out of this reality–or what feels like reality.) But I distinctly remember a dream I had last night where I was reading from a number of books. The text was very distinct and I could even remember bits of it when I woke up from the dream in the middle of the night. Of course it’s all gone now from my head now, except for some vague impressions and images that remain. I think I was reading RPG books, looking up different rules. I think I was also writing notes about the rules in a notebook.

I definitely wasn’t lucid dreaming. I didn’t know I was in a dream until I woke from it. I didn’t think to take control of the dream and alter it to suit my whims. Which makes me wonder if the lore about illegible text in dreams is true. And it makes me wonder exactly how I can tell that typing this blog post isn’t a dream. Does it even matter? Dream or not-dream, at least I’m not being chased by monsters. Not right now, anyway.


Never Again

One of the best first dates I’ve ever had (which is, I’ll admit, a low bar, because if it’s not universally accepted that first dates tend to be uncomfortably awkward at best, it’s certainly been my experience) was my senior year of high school. I finally got the nerve to ask the pretty, artsy, quirky redhead in my algebra class out on a date. We’d been clumsily flirting with each other for a while in that adorkable teen way, exchanging music with each other (she came up to my desk one day in class, asked me, “Do you consider yourself open-minded?”, and then handed me a cassette tape of Louis Armstrong) and hanging out with friends after school, but we’d never been alone together and neither of us had directly said “Hey, kissing would be nice, wouldn’t it?” to the other. But I managed to shut down my inner voice of insecurity just long enough to ask her if she wanted to meet up on a weekend night, just the two of us.

It was terribly sweet for two teens who were into Romantic poetry, Shakespeare, and alternative music. At my request, she met me at a park around the corner from my house. A not particularly well-lit park. Long after dusk. We sat at the park and just…talked. A lot. About our feelings and our families and our shared interests. Then I walked her home and we had our first kiss. Simple, sweet, and no money spent.

But also, WHAT THE WHAT?! That is a crazy date to ask someone to! I would never, ever ask a woman “Wanna meet me in a dark, secluded park, alone at night?” now. I definitely wouldn’t expect a woman to say yes to that, unless she’s absolutely set on being murdered and hoping I’m the serial killer to make that happen.

She and I were talking about this date the other day and how insane an idea it was, how it’s not something any woman should ever say yes to, and she said “Ha! Never again.”

Oh, sweet innocence of youth!


Borges and Me

Whenever I read Borges, I want to write like Borges. This isn’t unusual. Whenever I read any author I love, I want to write like that author. I’m not sure if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’m not sure I have the skill to successfully imitate any author, definitely not in a way that could be considered flattering, but I think that’s how you get better as a writer. Imitation.

Except it’s not me who becomes a better writer, it’s the other Neff. The Neff who writes volumes of fiction, while I just sit and think about writing while I’m in the shower or watching TV. Overcoming lethargy and putting pen to paper (or more accurately, opening a new document on the computer) to write stories? That’s the other Neff. I envy the other Neff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy enough with my life. I have a good job as a librarian (like Borges was) and I’ve had the fortune to live in other countries and be exposed to other cultures (like Borges did). I have good friends who are artists and writers (like Borges did) and they inspire me. But I also envy the life of that other Neff, the one who actually takes that inspiration and puts it into practice by writing. The one who starts stories and sees them through to the end.

Even worse, he writes stories that I had ideas for. For example, he wrote a fantasy novel about an epic war between leprechauns and giants. The leprechauns were a thinly-veiled metaphor, people living a fairly simple life of hands-on work and product, living in relative harmony with their environment. The giants were similarly obvious, people who live to dominate their environment and their fellow people with mass industrialization and depersonalization. The giants were expansionist, trying to invade and conquer the leprechauns, intent on using these charming folk as fodder for their polluted, mechanistic empire. It might sound simplistic, maybe even cliche, but the writing itself was full of poetic imagery, fast-paced narrative, and surprising plot twists.

It was a good enough idea for a novel, I’ve just never gotten around to writing it. But the other Neff? He did.

Meanwhile, I do my best to come to terms with never writing long, intricate, fully formed stories like that. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay if I just try imitating my favorite writers, like Borges, but never even finishing what I start. Let the other Neff be the writer who does what I only fantasize about. It’s fine.