Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Cigarettes Makes Things More Interesting

Maybe you have noticed that much of my poetry/writing contains references to smoking cigarettes.
 In truth, I like the idea of cigarettes much more than I like a cigarette in itself.

Cigarettes make my throat and head hurt. If I smoke too much in one day, I will wake up in the morning with a headache, sneezing ridiculously. It leaves a nasty coat of flem in throat and lungs and I can't sing. When I think of what smoking is, inhaling little particles of ash into my body, it grosses me out. When I think of my heightened potential for cancer because of smoking, it scares me a bit.

I imagine myself in the future as a leathery old woman with trashy bleach-blonde hair, long fingernails painted scarlet with a deep scratchy voice and a cigarette in my right hand. I'm browsing the internet or maybe reading a book.

Cigarettes are good in the moment. I like the fuzziness it leaves in my head, where I feel like I'm floating, and I relax. (Though if I get too light-headed, I get nauseous).

However, the reason I add cigarettes into my writing is because, in certain contexts, I think that they have a wonderful aesthetic quality to them.

They symbolize a multitude of things: loneliness, dependence, apathy, a free-spirit, good conversations, good reads, good music, stress, rebellion, boredom...This is a short list; you can add more of your associations in a comment.

Cigarettes can potentially make any dull scene more interesting. You see a bunch of hip kids sitting on a wall by a sidewalk, neither speaking nor moving.
You add a cigarettes to them, and suddenly there's a story there. They aren't just waiting around doing nothing, or maybe they are. Maybe they're a bunch of rebellious teenagers ditching school. Maybe they are such good friends that they don't need to talk; they just know each other so well. Maybe they are angry about something and they needed cigarettes to relieve their stress. Maybe from where you're standing you can't see the ear-buds blasting music into their ears.
The point is, the cigarettes make the story worthier of another's attention.

Even in regular life, this could be true. If I were one of the kids on the wall, I would want a cigarette too.

Now besides the aesthetic quality smoking makes things more interesting because it is a form of consumption. When people are together socially, they nearly always are either engaged in an activity, or they are consuming something: food, coffee, tea, beer or a cigarette.

So, smoking is not good for me, yet I write about it or do it for aesthetic purposes, and to have something to do when I'm sitting on a sidewalk looking like a hip kid.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Close the Book

I’ve been here twice before;
First time with you and the second time I was hugging my shadow 
On a summer night. Retracing our steps,
Where you pushed me on the swings,
And then I lay in the middle of the field,
The lukewarm rain drizzling my tears away.
Third time, I swayed on the swing set,
My body, frigid and quaking.
I took no step toward the field.

I’ve been here twice before,
And twice in the winter cold,
Once with you and once with my cigarette.
This time I’m fine, alone.

“I’ve never felt so close to anyone before,” 
You whispered in the cold, "This is perfect,”

This is my last cigarette,
My last visit here.
And this time I'm fine, alone.

Monday, January 24, 2011

She Labeled Herself Void

A corpse is drifting down the river,
The water is warm and the current will carry to the sea.
Limbs are limp, and eye lids are leaden.

She'll become a mermaid and float her whole dead life
In the company of ocean colors and fishes and swaying blades of grass.
Talking to herself, day and night.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Murdered In the Name of Freedom

Native American bodies tossed into a hole after the Wounded Knee Massacre

Learning American history infuriates me sometimes. I hate that people think America was a Christian nation and that we “need to go back to the faith of our forefathers” when in reality, our forefathers were racist.

The reason I bring this up is because today in history I learned about western expansion. Americans called it “manifest destiny” and they said they were following the providence of God. He was blessing them with the free-roaming west, full of promise and hope. This was America’s faith.
In the process of living out our destiny, we cruelly shoved Native Americans out of our way. They either had to be “tamed” or they had to get out of the way. If they resisted, American militia would massacre their villages.

The Wounded Knee Massacre is just one example, which was a very tragic end to the Indian wars. The natives were longing for the freedom they once had in the past and this is probably why the “prophet” Wovoka was such an inspiration to natives all around the west from many different tribes. He preached of restoration, where the fields would be full of cattle again and the people would live nomadically like they had in the past, without the interruption of white settlers. Their ritual Ghost Dance was supposed to hasten the day of their revival, so they did it often and in large groups.

Obviously the people in charge, the white people, did not like what Wovoka was saying. They disliked the hope that was being instilled in the hearts of Native Americans, that they would someday get their land back. Because of this, the dance was banned from all territories and even on the reservations.

As conflict arose between whites and Native Americans, a warrant was sent out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was a leader in the resistance. He was journeying to see Wovoka when he was arrested and in the process shot and killed.

This served as a warning to another leader, Big Foot, who went with his followers and retreated to Wounded Knee Creek. Militia was soon to follow. They demanded all of the natives’ hand over their weapons to the military.

While weapons were being handed over, someone fired. It is unknown who fired, but this broke the ice and turned the scene into a battle.

 “The men were separated from the women and were surrounded by the soldiers…the firing began and of course, the people who were standing by the man who shot first, were fired at first,” wrote a man named American Horse who escaped from the massacre “…Right near the flag of truce, a mother was shot down with her child. The child, not knowing his mother was dead, was still nursing… The women, as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through...and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys...came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there."

Three hundred natives were left dead. A few days later the soldiers returned and shoved the bodies into mass graves, and buried them away with their murderous sins.

The Native Americans were quietly destroyed and shoved into back corner reservations. They are on the top of the list for poverty stricken minority groups in America today. They also have the highest rate for suicides and infant mortality. Their life expectancy is 25 years shorter than that of a white man.

What about their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? America expanded to the west preaching of God’s providence. The west represents freedom and opportunity, but the price we paid for it was the lives and opportunities of countless Native Americans.

This makes me very angry but I’m not really sure what I should do. Jesus was an advocate to the oppressed and the poor, so calling America a Christian nation is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. A history like this doesn’t portray the love of Christ.

I even believe that America as the land of the free is a joke. One will only have freedom if he fit into a specific class and race. Sure, the 60’s civil rights movement made the situation better for some minorities. Yet I don’t think we can deny that America is still a white nation when we close our eyes and think of what an American looks like.

I have no resolution, except that I hope that God will show us what to do. Natives Americans live in a similar situation that blacks lived in after the civil war. They live in a culture of poverty, with few rights, and they are still discriminated against.

 I think there should be another civil rights movement, but I suppose I should ask the questions, “What do the natives want to change? What do they want us to do, if anything?”

All in all, what happened was obviously part of God’s plan, so western expansion was no doubt providential. But turning expansion into a romantic idea called “manifest destiny” was a lie. I believe God will judge America for the way they oppressed Native Americans in the name of freedom.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hosea 4:12

She struts down the alley way deep into the night, searching for fools to have.

 Seductive. A leather dress is compacted to her body and her six inch heels click on the side walk. Piercing eyes and wild hair, they draw the audience into her den. Her laugh is cool trickling water, sending shivers down their spines.

Are there any questions?

She’s a whore, by trade. She devours lonely men and afterwards her hunger only increases. She is discontent, loud and her words flow like a leaf in the river.

Don’t you know, how whenever she’s within your sight, you can’t rip your eyes from hers? Don’t you know she’s liar and she’ll only ever love herself? Her heart is a rotting.

Some may wonder of her origins. She is married to the richest man in town, who will love her till the day he dies. He lives in a meek and tidy abode, for most of his profits go to the poor, widowed and orphaned. He loves the beggar and comforts the sick and imprisoned.

What a forgetful fool she is. Her lover is as good as they come, yet she cannot sit still, she will not be comforted. She will not be full.

Yet when her eyes catch his, from the window as she walks down the street, she’ll run into his arms, for she knows he is the only one who makes her feel at home. The world is a rough place, and she knows it.
 Often in the cold of the night, she’ll come home and crawl into his bed weeping and he’ll kiss her so sweet. However, the streets and the music and the lights and the boys, all the cares of the world, they drag her like a magnet out his door.

Oh he knows that she’s a whore, by trade, but he will always love her and his love never fails. Despite her unfaithfulness, he remains faithful.

He beckons her back, and one day she will see and hear, and be his only.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Black Swan Review

Staring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Winona Ryder, Black Swan was called by The Boston Phoenix, “a symphony of opposites.” Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film was dark as always and therefore rated R. It was released nationwide on December 17, 2010. 
 Black Swan is a story of a ballerina, Nina (Portman), who dances for the New York City Ballet Company and desires to win the lead role of the swan queen in the upcoming performance of Swan Lake. Thomas (Cassel), the company’s director, forces Beth (Ryder), who has long been the queen of the company, to retire. He then gives the role of the swan queen to Nina, regardless of the fact that she danced poorly in her audition.
Thomas decided to do a rendition of the classic ballet, where he casts the white swan and the black swan as the same person. The white swan is beautiful, frail and good where the black swan is seductive, wild and evil. He encourages Nina to lose control and stop trying to be a perfect dancer when she plays the black swan. There is also a new dancer in the company, Lily (Kunis), who is just what Thomas desires the part of the black swan to be.
As Nina seeks to embrace her inner black swan, she begins to lose control to the point of madness. She literally becomes the dual personality that Thomas’ ballet is trying to impress, the white and black swan intertwined into one person.

This movie is packed full of interesting themes and here are a few.
First, there is an idea that childishness and weakness are associated with goodness, and adult-like activities and strength are associated with evil. 
In the beginning, Nina is the perfect white swan. She lives with her mother late into her twenties and she still has a cute pink bedroom filled with stuffed animals. Her mother always comes to her room to say goodnight at bedtime. Nina doesn’t have a boyfriend or any sexual desires toward anyone.  She holds her mother in high regard and always obeys her.
However, as the movie progresses and she begins to transform into the black swan, she goes out to a club with Lily and she gets drunk and high and has sex with a few guys. She comes home late into the night and after a disrespectful conversation with her concerned mother, Nina goes with Lily to her room and they have lesbian sex. I noted that these are the only scenes in the entire movie where Nina doesn’t look stressed, worried and scared; she was strong.
This leads to the second theme. Although one would think that loosening up would do Nina some good, it ends up destroying her. As Nina begins to “grow up” and “live a little”, she also begins to have severe hallucinations and she starts cutting herself, mistreating and harming her mother and hallucinating homicides. She also simultaneously becomes much more sexually appealing to her director.
Nina as the black swan

Towards the beginning of the film, Thomas is talking about why Beth was so interesting to watch as a dancer. He said that it was because she had such a dark side but “she is so damn destructive” and this is why he had to make her retire. Her destructive nature made Beth a great dancer, yet it ruined her character, and at the end of the movie, Nina comes to the same fate.
Another interesting factor in the film was that Nina had no one to turn to with her troubled mind. Lily offered to listen to Nina a few times and she even stood up for Nina to Thomas and Nina’s controlling mother. Nina let go of the controls in some areas of her life, but she never let anyone inside her head, to help her deal with the intense pressure that the ballet was pressing on her. There is this irony of Nina being so in control, yet so utterly helpless to all the chaotic events that are spiraling in life.
In a violent scene with her mother who is trying to encourage her to give up the part of the black and white swan, her mother cries, “What happened to my sweet girl?” to which Nina replies, “She’s gone.” Nina traded her “good”, up-tight self, for her destructive, wild counter ego.

Nina as the white swan

 Nina let go of her control by giving in to the evil force that was tormenting her. At the end of the movie, she kills herself, just like the white swan does at the end of Swan Lake. Perhaps this is a picture of the way that she killed the “sweet little girl” in order to become the black swan.

Over all, if you are not easily creeped out by bizarre and disturbing images, you are not offended by homosexual sex scenes, and you like films that play with your mind, then you will probably enjoy this movie.

Monday, January 3, 2011


My name is Marissa, and I'm a Facebookaholic.

It consumes my time when I could be doing so many better activities.
Studying the Bible? Praying? Getting to know my family? Reading Oliver Twist? Thinking? Writing?

Yes Facebook has intruded all of these activities and I'm tired of it. The horrible part is that it is literally impossible to get rid of Facebook. I can't delete it for good; I can only "deactivate" it, which means I can sign back in whenever I want to. Yes, I could have someone change my password for me, but I can always get my new password sent to my email. It's a conspiracy to over take my life!

Anyway, the real thing is, I have no self-control and too often I just feel like "vegging out" with Facebook, but then I turn into a lazy, useless potato.

I think it's time that Facebook and I part. This coming semester is going to be difficult but incredibly interesting and I want to take full advantage of the time I'm given. I want to actually do my assigned reading and do a lot of writing and thinking about what I learn.

So it will be a test in self-control, but in Christ I can do all things right?
Facebook, farewell.

Yet Am I Different?

The stench is unexplainable, but you always know it’s him when you smell it, because it’s also very distinct. You want to vomit whenever he’s within a 20 feet radius and you’d prefer that smell over his.
You can’t look at him either; he’s perfectly unbearable. The tumor protrudes from the left side of his face, demolishing the natural shape that faces should have. It’s an untamable shape. It has distorted his other features so that his nose is hardly visible except when you look closely you may see his two nostrils. But no one would dare to look closely. His skin hangs past his neck, taking part of his lips with it, and his left eye is forced shut because of the pressure of the tumor.
His hair is the most horrible colour you’ve ever seen- a strange mix of grey and yellow, with a slight hint of green. It’s matted, clinging to his scalp and the rest of it drips down his shoulders in tangled disarray.
He wears pathetic rags that hardly cover his body, and you wish that he would cover his body because the bones that protrude from his flaky skin disturb you. You wonder if some of the protrusions are other tumors, but you can’t quite tell. His feet are bare, and hairy and probably infected with various fungi.
He rides his bike wherever he goes. It’s an old rickety thing that’s starting to rust pretty bad. You don’t know if he is homeless or not because the only time you see him is when he passes you on the other side of the street on his bicycle, or when he’s in the grocery store. A few times he has been asked by your manager to leave the grocery store because he disturbs the customers and therefore disturbs business.
 He only ever buys liquor, cigarettes and bread and you figure he must have gotten cancer from his unhealthy diet. Perhaps he should shop at night when most customers are in their comfortable houses dosing off to the TV, but he always arrives at the store around noon, nearly every other day.
He’s despicable and no one can deny it. No one wants to look at him, or smell him or get near enough to talk to him.
You wonder if he can even talk, given his mouth might be disabled from that distorting tumor on his face. You assume that he has no mirrors in his house, if he has a house, You also assume that he has no family or friends because if he did, perhaps they would shop for him and furthermore, you wonder how anyone could stand him long enough to befriend him. He is probably an alcoholic, considering how much he buys, but that’s understandable, of course he would want to numb himself from this miserable existence.
You wonder and assume a lot of things about him, but thoughts of him mostly give you nightmares, so it’s better to ignore him. You sell him his liquor, cigarettes and bread as fast as possible and with your unfriendliness, encourage him to leave.
However, I do remember one time, I was in line behind him and you accidently caught his eye- only his right eye, because the other he can’t open. I saw your face change, and I could hardly read every emotion that swam through your countenance in that moment. Disgust, horror, deep sadness?
His eye- it were the most lonely and lost sight you had ever endured. You forgot the smell and the ugliness, and just stared at that dead blue eye.
Maybe that changed you, because you know his name now and you know that he lives alone in an old van in an old trashy lot. He has no friends, of course, or family to speak of. He gets money from social security and spends it all on forgetting his troubles, but he can’t bring himself to end it all for good though, because he was raised to believe in God, and he’s not ready to face Him, even though he despises the thought of Him.
He’s the most beggardly man the world could know and the most wretched. Who could love a man like him? You and I, we can still barely stand to look his way, even when we know we should.
Yet who am I and am I really more lovely to behold?