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2012 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
Wage slavery
I got a raise and another 20 shifts at the call center yesterday, though it was also my crummiest day ever. It is all so counter-intuitive. I am so relieved, temporarily, and yet so worried in the long run. It would be so easy to lose this job it will never be easy to keep.
While I was struggling at work, the current object of my obsession was sending me an email that reminded me of a former object of my obsession and how he used to call “to say hi.” The tone was flat, the subject matter superficial. It sounded like an obligation. I didn’t respond.
Ambivalence and indifference
“I always think when I am single that it would be easier if I were in a relationship, and I always think when I am in a relationship that it would be easier if I were single,” I told a friend today. Ambivalence, at least the way I experience it, is a long way from indifference. Indifference is my response to a choice between liver and kidneys for supper. Ambivalence is my passionate engagement with mutually exclusive possibilities.
Compassion and empathy
I find myself wondering: What is the difference between compassion and empathy? Empathy feels harder than compassion to achieve. Empathy seems like a subset of imagination, whereas compassion doesn’t seem like a subset of anything, but rather one of the building blocks of the universe. I can feel compassion for you whether I can relate to you or not, but empathy asks me to wriggle into your skin.
Am I doing my part? That’s the only question, and the answer is yes.

2010 Hampi, India
I am writing on the porch outside my friend’s room on the other side of the river, where I slept last night. Her next-door neighbors are clearing their throats and talking loudly in a language I don’t understand. I found myself wondering if they were plotting to skip out early without paying, as they don’t seem like the kind of people usually awake at this hour. But if this were so, I would expect their voices to be hushed at this magical time of day when the huts and the hills are shaking off their cloak of invisibility and the proprietors of this guest house are stirring awake, as dawn slowly gathers. Ah, well. Yet another mystery I am not required to solve.
Definitely a great adventure sleeping over here, and a great night’s sleep. Night sounds, including a tinkling, clinking sound my friend made when she moved in her sleep, and now, as the day begins, the crowing of roosters and what seems like ceremonial music across the river.
Elephant’s blessing
I missed Lakshmi the elephant getting her bath yesterday, but that didn’t stop her giving me a luxurious blessing at the temple. Perhaps I’ll catch her at her bath this morning or next.

2009 Krakow, Poland
Notes from underground
I just now realized that I dreamed last night of an email inbox, and there was a message in it from my Beloved Tormentor, and I do not know what the message said.

2006 St. Johns, Portland, Oregon, United States

Hai(na)bun from the Anti-Portland (prose poem)

Everybody, it seems, knows these places. These vortices, cities of anti-matter, landscapes of dream. I remember one twilight in winter. I had been calling and calling you, but you had probably yanked the phone cord out of the jack, tired of telemarketers, collection agency representatives. By then I was hopelessly lost, only a few miles from home. Approaching an intersection I know well from a new direction, I had not a clue how to proceed. I pulled over, called you once again, and this time you picked up.

“The sign says I’m at the corner of Portland and Greeley, but I know I’ve never seen this place before. There’s a car wash, a Plaid Pantry. Please tell me how to get home.”

“Oh, you’re in the anti-Portland.”

Like I said, everybody knows these places.

We traveled together through our city’s dark mirror on a different evening. Your sense of direction so keen I never thought you could lose your way. But you were in the passenger’s seat, and I was drunk. Not so drunk that I couldn’t drive us home, just drunk enough that I didn’t feel like having a conversation with the police about it. We were hiding, I’ll admit it, staying off the main thoroughfares. You were telling me which way to turn at each intersection as we made our elaborate route between two points on the very same street. Slowly, the realization crept up on me that you didn’t know where we were.

A vast park on the right, trees both inviting and intimidating, stark against the winter twilight sky. A floodlit housing development stretching out to infinity, pristine as if they had just now cut the ribbon, held the grip-and-grin pose a little too long. As if not a sneaker had ever left the imprint of its tread in the brand-new mud. Off in the distance, a huge fire blazes not quite out of control.

“Do you see that?” I ask, pointing with my chin.

“We’ll have to come back in daylight,” you answer inscrutably.

The end of the line, before we admit defeat and turn back toward anything resembling something we have ever seen before the last half hour, is a monstrous parking lot looming with big metal containers, the kind you barely notice stacked like shoeboxes on trains and freighters. Ordinarily I love places like this, but it’s too dark by now, too late, too weird, too close to home.

We’ll never find
these places

2005 Parkrosk, Portland, Oregon, United States

A questionable bestiary (poem)
spawn of hay(na)ku

said maybe
I should live
a dog.
I didn’t say
a dog
than a goat.

2002 Blagoveshchensk, Far East Russia
Temporary cats
I am perched on my thick Russian windowsill, playing with Skaska the fairy-tale kitten, who is sitting in my lap – “on my knees” is the English equivalent of how they describe this in Russian – and fidgeting just a little, while I watch my dear city come to life on a Saturday morning.

all rights reserved Josephine Bridges ©2012-2013