poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, selected for the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, will be published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City) this fall.
His journal credits include Rattle, Confrontation Magazine, Connecticut Review, Nimrod, and Seneca Review.
He directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing and composition at The Ohio State University at Lima where he lives with his wife, Beth, and daughter, Lee.
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In his early thirties Siddhartha sought enlightenment
in Cleveland. He worked at a drive-up window
at a Burger King and rented an apartment
by the refinery. At night the clouds of smoke
and the blue flames depressed him, and he always
seemed to be waiting in the slowest-moving line
at the Wal-Mart. It wasn’t human suffering
he understood then but human boredom,
the endless orders of Whoppers and French fries,
the endless congestion of the cars by the strip mall.
Sometimes in the evenings he meditated to the glow
of Three’s Company reruns on the television screen,
or he wandered through the Wal-Mart and looked
at the plastic figurines of the Bodhi Tree or even
the elephant about which his mother once had dreamed,
or he walked down the street and bought
a bottle of cheap wine to drink from a paper bag,
or he simply couldn’t help himself and brought back
a prostitute to his room, but her cell phone
was always going off, or she would ask him if he wanted
her to pretend to be a school girl, or he would remember
kissing Yasodhara and Rahula goodbye before he deserted them.
It was clear to him then that everything was transitory,
but how could he possibly imagine that as comfort?
He would get old then sick then die.
And in the meanwhile he took orders through a microphone.
And the television flickered. And the refinery flames burned.
“Our son eschews the laws of physics,” the boy’s mother lamented
more than once. While every other infant in the neighborhood
showed deference to the sober and grandfatherly status of gravity,
their child floated sideways in his crib or sometimes upside-down,
which his parents attributed to the inconvenient stubbornness
of the double-helix of his DNA. Then soon it was his chemistry
the boy ignored, sometimes becoming liquid for no better reason
than he saw a stream, sometimes becoming ice to slide across
the basement floor. Father thought a little persuasion with the belt
might be in order, but Son was slow with the ins and outs of space and time
and cause and effect, which meant that the belt would never snap at exactly
the precise moment the child’s derriere drew near. In some ways
the parents were proud of their son for flouting even the laws of logic,
the boy announcing to them on his seventh birthday that some day
he would grow up to be both (at the same time) a bachelor and unmarried,
that his entire existence would become a self-refuting statement
or a performative contradiction. He teased them often, in fact, by quoting
Nietzsche’s assertion that one should not obey others. At school
his teachers grew weary of always being challenged, and not one
of the other children in the neighborhood liked a boy who played marbles
with a tiny black hole that swallowed every other marble in its path.
Sometimes, to amuse himself, the child made his imaginary friends real
and his real friends (not that he had any) imaginary, and sometimes
he fiddled with his senses so that he could smell colors or hear
the taste of Milk Duds. It was never easy being different.
At night sometimes the boy cried himself asleep, but then his tears
would evaporate to form tiny rain clouds that rolled across the ceiling.
Sometimes the child poked his fingers into one to make the water drip.
Sometimes he watched the tiny flashes of lightning. His parents
didn’t understand. He couldn’t explain. And never once
would he admit to them that there were nights when he would curl
himself into a tiny ball and teleport himself back into his mother’s womb.
Once there, he would recall that wondrous period of his life
when it had seemed possible he might be born to be nobody.