Dalton's Inferno
And so it begins.

It only takes 60 pages before I realize that I’m going to have to do something different. The book, Goat, is a memoir that Alex assigned and already I can see that it’s different than anything I’ve ever read, the prose ambiguous and stunted. I grabbed it off my nightstand because sleep is a tease. 10 Am- I shouldn’t yet be awake but I can no longer stave off the sun’s assault on my window.

I’d grabbed this book because it was shortest of the 23 that have come in over the last few days, used books shipped by Amazon from all over the country. But now I see the words are dense and the pages spill with meaning. Lines three words long, proper nouns uncapitalized- oh its too early for this.

Surely I can read this, understand the nuances and even take something- a line or a phrase or a feeling, something from the depths and use it. But that won’t make do for what I want, it won’t serve the purpose I have harnessed these words to.

It is New Year’s Eve and so I am 24 hours early. Next year, I am going to write a book. I am going to bravely face the page, day by day. I’m going to do it with a discipline I know I have but have yet to unlock, and out of that and this and everything, words are going to come. I am going to craft them into something, something that I can be proud of. And when that creation process is finished, I will be able to step back from it and say, “this is a good thing.”

At least, that’s the plan. I’ve never written a book before. I’ve never given such credence and attention to literature, though I’ve loved it for years now. These things, machinations, words on papers, have always been beautiful auxiliaries, but now they will become who I am. I intend on becoming first and foremost a writer, a human being and all that entails second.

If I am to do that, I will need discipline. So I put down the book. Trudge to my room. Reemerge with a tattered composition book. Note taking.

~

            I write. I mean, I’ve written before. A couple of short stories, plenty of bad poems. One that actually saw the light of day in a student magazine. I cover sports for the school paper and, being a liberal arts major, I write essays all the time. I like to write, and I do like the creation that stems from my fingertips when Alex sets me down with a prompt and makes me write.

            For all these reasons, I consider myself a writer.

            But, up until now, there’s been something lacking. It is New Year’s Eve, classes are still a fortnight away, I am diligently pecking away at these keys, and this is different. I’ve written a hundred books in my mind, creations springing forth on long runs and car rides and that summer I spent cycling across the country. Now, however, is the time to breathe life into these words, give them existence. It is my time to truly try my hand at this business.

            This coming semester will be my last. 22 years old and graduating. Ahead of me looms the so-called “real world” that I’ve been threatened with since I was almost in middle school. Jobs and bills and trying to talk to girls even though they’re now women. All of these things on the horizon and I am fully cognizant that I have five months left in this bubble.

            So these are my circumstances. This is my chance. There’s no real desperation here, just the methodical plodding of the cattle of time. Things will happen and thoughts will occur and everything moves in the only direction, forward. So, in a sense, nothing real is at stake as I embark on this.

            And yet. And yet I don’t want to wake up at age 23, or 29, or 36, or 90, and wonder where it all went. And if I have to face a sadness like a clock, or find myself without something to believe in, I want this. So maybe not, but maybe there is a tinge of desperation to these proceedings. My mom once said she thought there was a book in me somewhere. Here is the time to find out.

And so it begins again. A new chapter. Except this one is a literal chapter. One more semester left at TCU. Time to make everything right and as it should be. Leave a final legacy. Become The Person I Want To Be, whoever He is. No more tiredness, no more weariness- “Even youths grow tired and and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Honestly, all bets are off.
I’ve completely closed the door on 2011. I’m done with it, finished. It was beautiful and it was fun and it was hard and man, it really hurt. A few ways where I’ve never let myself down more. But also, rising to who I can be in other ways. Cool, whatever. I’m done with it. Not a blip on my radar. And I couldn’t tell you why that is, just that it is, and so it’s time to move on to bigger and better.

And mark my words, it is going to be bigger. And it is going to be better. I’ll save you the details- but things are happening. “Something you never felt, you never seen or heard.”

But- as they say, talk is cheap. Results speak.



Here’s what I wrote to recap 2011, just for Norry’s sake-

The plane should be landing in Austin shortly. Of course, I should already be on the ground but we left late. I’m on the return end of a trip to Colorado, which itself marked the end of another semester at TCU. My seventh and so you’d think I’d have the gig figured out by now.

            Well, in a few ways, yes. This semester has been a celebration of sorts- the time that I finally figured it all out. I went up for Mr. TCU, navigated through the job search process, and felt more comfortable than ever within my social circle. This semester I was given some truly amazing opportunities. This is my fourth plane trip since August. I’ve gotten to represent TCU all the way from campus to San Diego and Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve stepped into leadership positions all over campus and have achieved many of my goals. In many senses, I am having the experience I came here to have.

            Many times, I judge myself based upon how a younger version of myself would perceive me. When I was an incoming freshman, I remember certain older guys that I met. I remember interacting with them and thinking, “This is the person I want to be when I’m older.” Now that I am one of those older guys, I’m proud to say that I am who I want to be, where I want to be.

            There were some difficulties, definitely. Growing pains. I learned a lot about myself, especially in the waiting. At the beginning of the semester, I became frustrated because I wasn’t at all patient with my life. I wanted epicness. I wanted stories, I wanted memories, I wanted to own the campus, I wanted Teach For America. And many of these things came to me with time, but I wanted them all right then and there. I became frustrated when I instead learned to wait. Waited through the lows, through the changing of the guard brought about with relationships, through the TFA application.

All the while, the process wears on you. It breaks you down, makes you act rashly sometimes. But I gutted it out. I made it through a tough academic semester. I went through Miss Lynne’s passing. Another finals week from Hell. Training solo for a marathon. By the end of it all, I was spent. In some ways, this is the hardest I’ve had to work in college.

And now? Now I can’t wait. I’m on fire, I can’t stop. My life is a dubstep drop waiting to happen- Alone with just a laptop to write on and a notebook to brainstorm, anything is possible. The potential for next semester is unfathomable. And that’s just the next step to the rest of my life. I feel completely and utterly in control. I’ve felt that way before and I know the price of hubris. But for now, I’m just enjoying the moment.

Right now, I’m at the top looking down. I’ve got nothing but time, energy, and potential. To be honest, that’s how its always been. That’s where I made my name in the hallways of Lufkin- back when I was nothing but a possibility. And now, once again, I can at least pretend that everyone’s sleeping on me. The pace has picked up and I’m hitting my stride- manic. Here’s to what comes next. 

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله

Well, you know what they say:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله

And you know that it is true.

Even in the torrents,

Especially in the torrents,

It all comes together.

Oh, So many long, dead hours,

many battles fought

for the dead.

You grasped at time even

As it slipped and slid away,

Evading and laughing the whole way down.

You know now it’s a long walk home.

I said I’d not come back,

But I’m coming back!

No one can ever know for sure

If it ends or not.

Hours stretching into days,

Me still writing on the floor.

Red Gatorade.

Eyes yawning for rest,

Sleep that will not come.

Broken window pane,

Splintering spidering

cracks on cracks  on cracks,

no driving.

But through it all, a pillar

And a mast.

Calling from the quiet place.

“I do not grow weary.”

Legs pumping,

120 BPM now, Wingate test.

Fire in the whole, 1000 clichés.

Some poems are meant to be good.

Others? Sheer expulsion of energy.

I am a solar flare.

God, you are my God.

There is no God but You.

4:23 AM

4:23 AM on a random day, a day just like any other. I’m thinking about high school and the idea of memories. It’s funny that I hardly ever think about Lufkin anymore except as a placeholder for some sort of ideal because it used to be so important to me. I have to get up in a few hours and continue on to the next day of my life but for now time seems to stand still. Memories of things that were important and have now faded. Our lives slip out, sneak away from us in those dying moments, the time spent falling asleep or trying to recollect the self. Everything fades and its interesting to see what we’re left with when all the dross is burned away. It’s interesting to see just how much we are simply the product of the choices we make.

Manic

Coming out like a rocket,

Stars in heaven take note.

Love and hope

Give me goosebumps,

Racing up and down my arms

Like the armies marching on Warsaw.

For months now a sordid slumber,

The slow unawakening in my chest.

Now, through the shadow and the mist,

New life.

No one can say when or how, but

Everything has changed.

Blink the eyes and now-

No sleep, no slumber,

Eradicate stillness.

Ten feet tall and bulletproof

Is how the therapist describes it.

Alive and unapologetic,

Thunder across the plain,

Rolling rolling rolling

Until there is an end to tomorrows.

Perfect in the equilibrium of tantric,

Flowing from one river to another,

The tributaries of fire,

Electric in the air.

Swelling inside,

See touch feel the Energy.

As if you’d never before been alive-

But you were once and you’ve missed it.

Welcome home, to the shuddering-

The Drop.

Shake me down

Sun so warm it’s cold

Heart so full it’s empty.

Existing in the tension,

Each prayer wafting towards heaven

On its own wings

And I know that

Some people (all people)

Can only save themselves.

But still, “You begin saving the world

One

Person

At

A

Time.

Anything else is politics

Or romanticism.”

So roll on my back

Like silent thunder;

Cover my eyes and breathe deep,

That old familiar feeling

Of trying to hold it all together,

This thing, whatever it is,

Bursting at the seams,

Spilling out,

Washing away,

A desire to start over,

Throw it all away,

Lose your ——— composure for just once

Just once!

And then

The moment is gone.

Hold together,

Right the ship,

Hit the bag hit the road,

See the miles erase it all

And now back to the start.

Breathe heavy and fast,

Breathe deep and slow,

Shower, rinse, do not repeat.

And it is only then that you realize

You have been held in perfect balance,

Tenuously though it may be.

There is such a thing as heroes.

Kansas

So, I spent this last weekend in Olathe and Overland Park, Kansas. I went to visit my friends Andrew Sword, who’s going to be my roommate next year, and Nathan Wang, who was riding through on Journey of Hope. I drove up and back, 8 hours both ways, with Mike Vosters, who is well on the road to becoming a full-fledged New Yorker. It was, by my standards, a quiet weekend. I spent three nights there and stayed up talking to Sword until five in the morning each time. That and the drive time meant a lot of thinking for me.

One thing that’s been on my mind a lot is the way I’ve been living all summer. I spent the school year working incredibly hard- at work, running, academics, relationships, fraternity, SGA, etc. And I was definitely rewarded for it but it left me burned out and ready for something new. So I’ve been living in the id all summer, having adventures, living without consequences, and saying yes to everything. Now, I can feel the change that’s coming. I’m gearing up for the year again, I’m starting to settle down. I want a project I can sink myself into and love. I need stress in my life. Not stress, but pressure. I need to feel it squeezing in on me, molding me into the person I am becoming. I’m excited.

Becoming a writer

Oh man, sometimes you’ve just gotta write. You just have to let the words flow from your fingers like magic or electricity, just to feel them leaving your soul. Sometimes it becomes all that you could ever hope to be- these words, slipping and running and coalescing. I wanted to write a poem, I’ve been writing a lot of poems recently, but this felt different from the onset. I wanted to write something where everyone who reads it will know exactly what I’m thinking right now (even though I’m not really thinking much of anything). A poem can’t always give you that. They’re sometimes intentionally vague and open to interpretation.

You know, I wasn’t always a writer. I used to struggle to write even a page of prose. I think it came down to my learning disability. I have a disability that used to make the physical act of writing very difficult. I spent a couple of years in physical therapy and its not an issue now but I used to hate writing. Not the ideas or anything, but the actual creation of words.
We used to have to take these state-mandated writing tests. You were graded on a scale of 1-4. 1 was failing, 2 meant that you were a crappy writer but you could at least write coherent paragraphs. 3 meant you were solid. 4 was exemplary. In fourth grade, I got a 2. I remember it being a miserable experience and by the end I was writing 4 word sentences just to finish. Then, in seventh grade I got a 4. That was the difference, the evolution.
Still, all that 4 meant was that I was good at writing. But I was a smart kid, so it didn’t change my self-perception. I could write (finally) but that didn’t make me a Writer per se. I had a Xanga in high school I guess but didn’t we all? Only three or four people read it which made it easy to open up on it and to learn how to express myself in writing.
In college I wrote my first real poem. I wrote it on a whim while riding in the back seat of an Austin-bound car. It was 5 in the morning, alcohol was in my system, and I couldn’t even see the keyboard I was typing on. After I put it on facebook, I got one comment: “I didn’t know LSD was a drug of choice among TCU students.” Thanks for that JaCorey.
After that, I started writing more. I started putting stuff on facebook, especially poems. It’s funny though, because I took a very different route to where I’m heading than a lot of my peers. For example, if you’re a business major, you do business major stuff. You get an internship sophomore and junior summers. You apply for Next Gen or Fellows. Etc. By the time you’re a junior, you know what you’re doing. You’ve been through the programs, you’ve listened to the talks. By the time I was a junior, I was still an amateur writer in the fullest sense of the word. But last semester, I took two writing classes. I sent in poems to magazines. I wrote for the Skiff and for San Antonio Men’s Magazine.
And now, I don’t think of myself as a kid who enjoys writing. I feel like a Writer. 

Hangover

Well the troops had considered themselves rallied,
Shufflin’ through a postapocolyptic wasteland
Of solo cups and sangria jugs,
High Life cans and a pool noodle.
Escaping, running away from any sort of
Responsibility or cares-
The so-called real world can wait.
And then, the rush of the train Is the screeching of the alarm clock.
And now the jacks are back in their boxes,
Call off the dogs and stumble out a shower.
Multivitamin and green tea,
Examine the neglected to-do list.
Back on my feet,
Hangover game over.
Two months of hiding from anything real,
Cowering from the tenacious hold
Of reality.
Now, once again,
It is time to think.
Time to feel.
Accept the burden,
Place the weight of the world firmly
Back on my shoulders.
I step out of the front door.
Step out into life,
Into love.
I’ve forgotten my sunglasses
And I realize that I had forgotten
Just how much
Sunlight hurts my eyes.

While your name is important, if you don’t attach it to anything, it means nothing.
Jeff Chatman
I’m gonna show you all how to look like beautiful stars tonight

I’m gonna show you all

How to look like beautiful stars

Tonight.

Sometimes in the depths,

I find myself, no bottle in hand,

Teetering at the edge.

Breathe deep.

Now I can peer into the abyss

And see what awaits me down there

Should I ever stumble.

Breathe deep but that won’t stop

What is quickly becoming a mental hyperventilation.

Two thousand different directions all pulling

And vying and needing

And I am to hold this within

The bars of my chest?

A cage and this fury won’t come loose

See and say that

At moments like this,

You must remember

Something that right now

Eludes me.

Hiding under the desk,

I need to let myself

Be overwhelmed.

I have to feel the pressure,

Pressing against my chest,

Pushing in on my veins,

Choking away.

When that happens,

I let myself crack just a little bit.

I let myself break, (breath)

Because only then can

The phoenix be reborn.

Only after I have lost everything

am I free to do anything and

It is in my weakness that

He is made strong.

And thus, I feel it,

The river raging inside me.

Feel the pressure, accept it,

Breathe it, become it,

And now:

On to the next one.