He is visiting New York for a few weeks and stayed with us for a few days. (When people stay with you, it is a window into something else.) He and I caught each other in passing and sat at our dining room table a few times and ended up talking about many things. He practiced for a reading of his work while in New York by reading a few of them to me: Me. An audience of one. I said, “So slow! Like you are singing the words!” And it does! It sounds like he is singing. And then, being moved, I impulsively said, “Will you read while I play?” So, before he left our house, he read this poem while I improvised. It took probably 2 minutes (because we did it twice).
I want you to know about this poem and this writer because I am finding that being in a space in which room has been made to reflect and create is healing: for everyone.
With him you come to learn
that when a man is called to paint a girl
he paints all of himself.
His tiny songs are the floss in her hair,
the tulips on her blouse are the stories
his sisters told him under half-nights long ago
in the lost country of music. With their half-furls and
follicles and buds and brown twigs that speak more
of withering things. The tiny sigh, the one you almost
didn’t see, the silence in her eyes, is the night his mother
died while he fought rebels in the Nigerian army.
I am generally a pretty poor sleeper. I have been most of my life, I think. I don’t have a problem falling asleep – it’s the staying asleep. But, it’s okay, because I love the stillness of very early mornings. Sleep being interrupted at 3, 4, 5 or 6 am isn’t all that bad: I am calmer then. I can focus. Be alone. Think clearly. There is a bit of reassuring restlessness and creative urgency in the quiet of these darker early hours. My days can drag, but I hate naps. It works out somehow.
These past few months especially, when I can’t sleep, I work. Luckily, I am blessed with the gift of gentle housemates who don’t mind me playing late into the night or early in the morning occasionally.
This morning was no exception. And it being Sunday, the most quiet morning of the entire week, I was able to compile a project I’ve been surreptitiously working on – okay, a bit publicly. These are approximately 1 minute story-score mini-movies for a game I started recently on my Instagram. (Hashtag for easy finding is #StoriesFromTheCelloTrain) This is the final installment, the final frame, of the 4-post set. I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback, but the overwhelming comment is “make them longer!” So, I’ve made this final piece to end the story a bit longer…for you. I’d call these scores mainly “Prepared Improvisations”.
A word about Sprinting: I have written about being a Sprinter on my blog before. I’ve had some friends read that post and tell me later: Yes! That’s me! It’s reassuring to not be the only one on earth who feels this way about themselves.
Sprinter (the EHP definition): the act of Super Focus on a chosen activity – or, occasionally, a person – for a very specific period of time but then experience a sudden and unexpected withdraw in Super Focus, most often not feeling the need to return to the activity again. The Super Focus time period can be minutes, hours, days, or months. It is rare that a Sprinter takes something on for years, but it happens. Other indications of sprinting behavior are the need to finish quickly to anxiously create or rush the feeling of euphoria upon completion or returns.
Being a Sprinter feels different from having an obsession, though I see how one might use that term. It’s more than the Sprinter simply choosing a thing. The two violently choose each other. For me, being a Sprinter is more than just having a Super Focus: it is a desire to consume as quickly as possible and to understand completely (which, eventually, is found impossible) until exhaustion, usually. But because being a Sprinter is so intense for such short periods of time, when the Sprinter experiences the Focus Drop, it feels like a true emptying. They can experience extreme sadness while simultaneously a sense of relief from the energy expenditure. I am more of a Sprinter now than I ever have been before mainly because I have openly accepted it’s what I do. I have become more present and self-loving in the attempt to understand my own sprints. However, I’m finding that because I am more aware that I am a Sprinter, I take things on with a more controlled moderation so my focus can last much longer. I can sustain activities now, slow myself down, be patient and understanding as I wait for it to come back if a break is needed, or simply be grateful for the time I had as I feel its need to end.
As a Sprinter, I am finding this new practice is a different kind of work than simply wanting to ultimately consume to deflect or distract. While it is still a Super Focus, it feels like a patient self-loving and a giving back to The Self instead of an exhaust. Inevitably, I appreciate, respect, and show more love to the object of my sprints because it’s coming from the most accepting and warm place within – that place of self-honor. Love.
Having said that, I have found what helps appease the Sprinter in me is to customize easy, short, creative “sprinting” projects. It feeds the hunger for constant and extreme variation while also feeding the need to complete things very quickly. All are satiated.
So, here you are:
A friend said to me today, “Sad is good for creating art.”
I have a penchant for the dark and sad because I am a romantic and an idealist while also being a skeptic and a cynic. Things must make no sense at all while being absolutely and totally logical. Unreal + real. I am simultaneously horribly relieved and extremely saddened by truth and inevitability and secretly feel like both are things you should be able to stop and mold at will with your bare hands. It’s all a special recipe for sadness, I guess.
Happy everything to you today.
How Like Stars, When Lit
 You are in a desert, and I am in your desert, too. The sun is full above us, and glassy water is to the left of you and to the right of me. We face each other from a far distance and because our images are distorted by the heat, we ask ourselves: Is it you? Is it me? I raise my arm and point. The gesture makes you turn to glance behind you. As you twist, you begin sinking into the ground – but you are being pulled by little hands! I come running as fast as I can through the sand for you but you suddenly fall through. I dive to grab you but you are gone – where?! Where do the tiny hands take you? What was I pointing at? And will I ever get to you wherever you are?!
 I lost you. Deep in the sand.
Do you feel safe? I yelled.
Safe? You yell back.
Yes – do you at least feel safe even if you are unsure?
I can’t hear what you say back to me through the deep. Then I decipher it:
Can you feel safe if you are unsure?
I don’t know, I say back. I’m bad at this.
Then how will you find me if you don’t know?
I’m not sure, I say.
Then we are both uncertain, but I think we are safe – yes?
I yell back because you have stopped talking to me. And because I am…uncertain…I wait next to the sink of sand. I wait because this is the last place i saw you, but I know that doesn’t mean this is where you are now. And if I leave…well, what if I left to find you some other way? What then?
Time moves so slowly when you are anxiously engaged next to a sink of sand trapped by The Melancholy…
 I am laying near the edge of the sand sink waiting for you to resurface. I finally rise to my feet after many days of listening for your voice.
I am so thirsty.
There is nothing.
Hello? I say, finally.
Then I will leave! I say.
One last yell into the sink:
Hello! I scream.
But as I am listening, I see the sink begin to fill itself up as if there was never anything at all: as if you had never even existed in this place. The landscape has now become one huge monochrome desert valley.
In this moment I have become aware of the scrapes on my knees and the sand in my ears and in my nose from when I threw myself to save you. I see the holes in my shirt from anxiously pulling during the waiting for you.
So I walk. I walk far towards the water in the West. (Long ago, you taught me to stay nearest to the water.) It is a slow walk because I have a hurt knee now. It is a hot day, and I expect to find very little. But I see the water in the distance, and I can finally make out a shape there. Round? Square? Or is that three points? It is blurry. Is it rising? Falling? Breathing?
If is it more than The Nothing I just left, then it certainly is something.
 It has taken me time to reach what I think is the water. So much time that it is now night – but the little lights from the sky still make the surface glow. I remember you telling me about this: how the water still shines in the night but how it is different from in the day – how it calmed you. How you felt home here. Just then, in my remembering, I pause because – wait – I think I hear you. But I do not. I walk. I am almost touching the edge where the sand ends. I anticipate relief because…maybe the strange, tiny hands would have taken you here? Maybe you came here? I look for signs in the sand. I look for a sink, hands, feet…water. Water? I go to the edge of the sand. Water? I drop to my knees and survey the vast surface glow. I don’t hear the expected wash or rush but… faint tings…clinks? Like how stars, when lit and plucked from their places, might sound rolled up, all broken like glass, in a soft bag. I search again and find what I saw shimmering in the distance during the day was just a vast and endless sea of sharp metal pieces – not unlike crudely made swords without hilts rolling and gesturing mockingly like the water might. They are of all sizes. Of all kinds. And this is now all I see shining in the darkness at my kneeling.