in nineteen eighty eight i was basically just a potato being hoisted around by knotty hands it rained a lot & i took such strong pleasure in watching the raindrops race each other down the hinged panes of french windows. in nineteen eighty eight chernobyl had the newsmakers spooked & you shouldn’t drink the water they said because the rain was contaminated with soviet poison. in nineteen eighty nine the sky was full of cold shapes and i was crying i would cry until i slept and dreamed in creases (no colors yet) only big gray creases and folds hardnesses and softnesses warmths and ugly chills. the age when i did all my thinking in creases & folds were good years, they helped me understand how beds work & later the viscosity of yearning. in nineteen ninety & ninety one we lived in the side of an old leaky castle in the countryside there was moss everywhere i wanted to grow my own moss on my face and the backs of my hands but they wouldn’t let me i wasn’t old enough yet and unlike the old leaky castle i didn’t have any stone walls or any secrets. in nineteen ninety two my brother arrived and he was as potatoey as i had been and for awhile i hated him because i wanted to be this family’s only potato. (later my brother & i united in tuberous comradeship against parental exhortations). in nineteen ninety two we moved north to a funny town fully of waterzooie and flemish double-aaaas that i loved only for the odor of liegewafels and the bright petals of tulips in the market because otherwise every morning was rain. in nineteen ninety three i made my first friends due partly to the bright rainbows on their teeshirts we took some photos together all happy and incoherent with plum trees in the background. in nineteen ninety three we’re all in the airport flying away to the land where our words are from (our words are saying hiii to all their word-friends) and then a building full of taped cardboard boxes (this is our home now). in nineteen ninety three we are in the hospital and my father is one-eyed with facial bandages secretly i imagine that he’s been recruited to become a monster and this one-eyedness is only the beginning of the horrors that are to come. in nineteen ninety five my mother thought i was so sad because of the one-eyed father that she got me a drum to play on (this was her big mistake) and then i played john philip sousa and star wars and a lot of songs that i made up by humming loudly while i banged and clacked with sticks. in nineteen ninety five i had a snare drum teacher who taught me military marches and percussion fundamentals like the paradiddle and the nine-stroke roll. later he would write me letters in blue cursive about the infiltration of our society by a race of invisible yet benevolent extraterrestrials who were in cahoots with jesus h. christ. in nineteen ninety six it was winter the snow was like the coat of one of those big fluffy forever dogs and came up past my chin. we put it in big silver pots with maple syrup and ate it with spoons (so good! but then brainfreeze. this is how i became suspicious of pleasure). in nineteen ninety six the roads were closed and we walked up to the grocery store to buy some milk there wasn’t any milk so we went home.
in nineteen ninety seven there was the beatles and bob marley for the first time in my ears and i wore these big old tshirts to bed and loved being inside my room. in nineteen ninety seven when i had to go outside i wore a sweatshirt every single day because i felt chubby and hated being looked at by other kids. every friday night my brother and i ordered pizza with my mom we watched vhs movies like the mask and ghostbusters. in nineteen ninety seven there were real computers with intenet and devotional stretches of playing civ 2 and writing little character plays that all read like the marx brothers atlantic voice up-talk monologues. in nineteen ninety seven i’m wishing i could be anywhere but in my own body, anywhere but in my own head. in nineteen ninety eight i’m playing snare drum in school band, watching john waters, david lynch, quentin tarantino. in nineteen ninety eight i’m publishing a small newspaper with microsoft publisher and distributing copies at the local vhs video store and diner where you can win a keychain in a bright plastic egg for the price of two quarters. in nineteen ninety nine i am so awkward and acne-blotched that after school i listen to depressed music over and over again until the anguish of living in a human body recedes. in two thousand we all figure the world is going to end because of y2k but it doesn’t. in two thousand one the sky’s full of smoke and the red-haired english teacher with nice freckles turns on the radio and we listen to the arc of history swerve into catastrophic misadventure. in two thousand two people are wondering how much torture is too much torture. in two thousand one there’s the fear of white powder and brown skin at airports. in two thousand two there are all these mass arrests that no one’s supposed to talk about but a whole bunch of brown people get disappeared by the fbi. in two thousand and three people are in the street and people are in camo heading overseas to other deserts. in two thousand and three my eyes feel wrenched open i’m outraged i’m telling people with furious conviction that i do not trust the government. in two thousand three someone asks me don’t you think it’ll be worth it to not die of bioweapons? what if your skin bubbles and your eyeballs melt? in two thousand and three people are buying plastic wrap and bottled water for all their homes, we practice running in zig-zags to avoid snipers and go down into the basement to practice waiting for the air to clear. in two thousand three my haircut’s a blue mohawk i put on headphones really loud to block out the world. in two thousand and three after eating mushrooms with this guy we walk all over the us capital in downtown dc and through the woods and back up long sets of stone stairs in the embassy district and it feels like the whole world is converging upon a singular point in the redgold distance. in two thousand and four i grow a bit taller and now i can jump up on top of things and yell at the top of my lungs. suddenly i have lots of things to say and i want everyone to listen, somehow i can’t seem to stop talking. in two thousand five i become very much alive to the amazing sexiness of other people’s bodies and the feelings of lust are so fiery that everything else fades to grayscale murmurs. in two thousand and five i’m reading kafka and camus and foucault and baudrillard i’m talking about marxism with a cringey swagger and spending most of my time working on research for debate team. in two thousand six i’m going to college feeling again so alone i spend hours talking on the phone and make some new friends but mostly i’m either drinking alcohol or reading these very dense bigwordy books that feel like pure light in my brain, talking about historical destiny & the momentous future of humanity. in two thousand seven the summer is endless and so thick with psychic lyricism i’m watering plants and fetching coffee people in a big government office. me and my girlfriend listen to black moth and daft punk we go up north to new york state and drop acid in a nudist forest full of art & masked performers spouting new ways to be human. in two thousand eight there’s a sense of world-ending crash and my father loses his job along with many others when the economy collapses. in two thousand and eight me and my girlfriend are working overseas in china and my father decides to comes to visit, we get up on a secret rooftop and watch the sky over the olympics sparkling with fireworks. in two thousand nine i’m collaborating on little video projects and learn how to make budgets and manage projects using templates. in two thousand ten my parents split up and my grandparents die and this feeling of woundedness grows into a root of bitterness down the back of my spinal column like i go mute. all i’m trying to do is work on writing better stories with better words but the writing isn’t any good and i send it to people and magazines but the only thing i get back is rejection letters. in two thousand eleven i’m living in detroit in a barely furnished apartment drinking too much trying to pay my bills making music videos for people and teaching debate. in two thousand and twelve it works out a little better and we go to los angeles and london to work on cool gigs but the business isn’t really there and when we get stiffed on a couple big invoices it’s time to find a different job. in two thousand and thirteen i move to iowa to coach debate at the university. two thousand and thirteen was the year of snowy smell of cigarettes and wintering cropland, an resolute failure to compromise with the silence and distance of the plains. two thousand and fourteen is my cheapest year of rent: four hundred and thirty dollars, i eat beans and rice and in spite of my frugality i still don’t manage to save much money. it’s the first year that i get a story published in an anthology and i decided to go to san francisco for a public reading the feeling was so incredible it was like my whole heart was exploding. two thousand and fifteen i get accepted into grad school for creative writing but it’s expensive and i decide not to go. in two thousand and fifteen i move to san francisco to begin creating “content” for a tech company where i end up learning a few other technology skills as well. two thousand sixteen is the year that the book i’d started writing five years ago gets published by an independent press based in syracuse, ny. two thousand sixteen i do some more readings and think that getting published is all i’ve ever wanted out of life. (immediately following this sense of fulfillment, i fall into a deep depression). two thousand sixteen i begin freelancing more and help other people edit and put out books. in two thousand and sixteen i start and end two bad relationships that make me wonder whether or not i’ll ever be in a good relationship or if it’s better for me be alone for the rest of my life. in two thousand and sixteen i begin to make some changes in how i choose to spend time with other people. in two thousand seventeen i start my own software company and raise a small amount of money through a pitch contest but the catch is that in order to get the money i have to move to texas for six months, which is where the investors live. in two thousand and seventeen in texas i meet a person late at night in deep ellum and it feels different, somehow special right away. in two thousand eighteen my company grows and i move back to san francisco (now i’ve just turned thirty) and raise some more money and hire some more people and finally finish some poems that will get published by a small press out of kentucky. in two thousand nineteen in the coldness of winter i sit down and can’t write about anything and can’t think about anything so i decide to write a single sentence about each year of my life so far. why do i do this? do i learn anything? when i’m young the world feels so massive and wrinkled, a collage of light and movement. it is astonishing how vastly my experience of life’s daily dose of duration has changed. when i’m young my experience-memories are about temperature, creases, music or noise, my idea-memories are about intricate assemblages & impossible machines. when i’m older everything seems to collapse down to projects beginning-middle-and-end, i use templates as cognitive frameworks to make sense of my shared moments. for some reason, i define the days of my life using flow diagrams inherited from designers of industrially mass-produced leisure furniture. aren’t poems better when they contain both structure and an irresistible gnashingness, a gesture towards gentle savage delicacy? aren’t lives?
in the year of two thousand and eighteen i drank five hundred and thirteen cups of coffee. in the year two thousand and eighteen i ate sandwiches and wrote words. in the year of two thousand eighteen the future spoke to me in pocket lint and cat hair and strange seeds that we always found between the couch cushions, as if the couch itself were an interdimensional traveler gathering a fertility vault before its next expedition. in the year of two thousand eighteen i entered my third decade, ate my hundred thousandth strand of spaghetti, shed my millionth salty tear into a bowl of greasy soup the pale green shade of young artichokes. in the year of two thousand and eighteen there wasn’t time to dwell upon the moment when i will cease to experience myself & my own incompleteness, to fear that neverending sleep that awaits us all beyond the edges of sense & embodiment. in the year of two thousand and eighteen i began to question my recklessness and doubt my arrogance, to reckon with my unanswered riddles: attachment, gratitude, misrecognition, antipathy, overfamiliarity, dysphoria. in the year of two thousand eighteen the world started rapidly tumbling ass over teakettle the way a burning hubcap rolls away from a glorious crater still alive, still very much ablaze.
Elizeya Quate is a noun concealed somewhere in this sentence, but not quite where you’d expect. Check out Quate’s recent chapbook “cra-que-lure” from Finishing Line Press, and view other projects at elizeyaquate.com.