5.27 A Word for Chris Cornell

“The heart is like a house with many rooms,” my father used to tell me all growing up. “In anyone else’s home, you wouldn’t go in any room you weren’t first invited into, but would wait patiently for them to be ready to open each door, room by room.”

Throughout my life, this lesson has been more relationally, spiritually, and emotionally relevant than most any other.

For this reason I remember every detail of the moment I first heard Audioslave’s Like A Stone on a Youtube channel. While there are naturally multiple interpretations as to the intended subject of this song, it struck me on a deeply unmet level in more than just a couple ways. While I can’t say that I have been a fan for many years- I immediately found an inexplicable kind of somber connection with all of Cornell’s music and a unique respect for him as a songwriter. Albeit extremely cliche sounding- his suicide has affected me in a way I never thought I could be, much less by someone I don’t even personally know; The definitive reason why evades me, as most reasons do these days. That’s partly why it’s taken me this long to write any word about his death in the midst of my own black days. Yet even still no justice may ever be done with any words to convey the sorrowful feeling of the type of painful tragedy and the resulting realizations of the collective weight of all these dark matters about us.

Not to imply that every suicide isn’t tragic; but perhaps it was the timing, circumstance, and method of his death have caused it to have such a profound impact on me; as I myself often live in a place of considering taking my own life in such fashion. Regardless of the use (or misuse) of Benzodiazapene drugs, I am personally reluctant to believe that in itself would independently bring one to take their own life who were not already a tormented individual beneath it all; and I know that the kind of emptiness, agony, and perpetual fear long preceding such an act is something that cannot be described, and I can only brokenly project what his share of it was.

Beside the innate sadness of this loss; beside the speculation as to what drives one to suicide, and beside the deeply sobering reality of our own swift mortality- is a defeat in the ears of those still walking in similar vice or battle, and a deepened grief for the momentary surrender of all that music exists to fight for- life- despite the countless reasons we each may have to give up. Whether it’s a battle with drug use, depression, anxiety, addiction and self- destruction , or any battle with yourself; music is often one of the only ways many continue to walk through it each day, and Chris Cornell’s influence on the lyrical power of Audioslave, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and his own songs have surely given many others who too  may feel irreparably lost or alone a place to simply be together in dark places, without offering any vain or potentially undermining positivity.

Music is at least half of my life, and the other half I can’t very well find the words to explain; but songs like Shadow On the Sun, Seasons, Fell on Black Days, Show Me How to Live, Be Yourself, and many others have said some of what I’ve long struggled to- with a tangible, timeless kind of grace.

Just in the solidarity alone of knowing firsthand how much more pain goes into every song than the hearer will be able to perceive- somehow causes the world to feel even more empty with his passing. Music and how we touch others in this life are the only things that may ever even approach permanence in this world, and Cornell will forever have his place in both, as a liberating- and now haunting- legacy.

May the “doors locked from within” finally be opened, and may Chris Cornell rest in an eternal peace.


5.20 free write

It’s on my mind and in my mind from the first thought when I awaken to the last moment before the sedatives kick in to draw me to a fitful sleep. Most of the time the gnawing is there too, as some dark entity bent on not my destruction- as it very well knows I crave- but my torment. They say I should not be overtaken by this constant suffocation, and I am not by the account of mechanical compliance and routine. Company in this midst is a futile endeavor.  But I still hear it and feel it every second in between. Nothing can drown out the screaming fact in my head that it’s been another few years since I set out on another vain quest to find a new bandaid for my gunshot wound, or something to serve as a replacement for coping mechanisms cruelly rendered useless by the penetrating eyes of time. By which every safe place, every drug, and every blood sacrifice expires in its use and I stand where I started years ago, but with extra burdens that all add up in a manner I cannot- nor care to articulate to anyone at all. 

Everyone says there’s no such thing as a problem without answers- even if the answer lies in the serenity of acceptance and a kind of denial. Yet for a struggle I’ve heard not another having dealt with, I have tried and done to such extreme lengths what no other I have ever heard has done. But it fails and fails again, and laden in so much shame I could never tell anyone the true depths to which this problem lies as a slow death sentence to me only metaphorically and spiritually, for I was not granted the favor of death- though against all odds, few can explain how I still stand having foolishly put myself through such rigorous abuse in my pursuit of relief for solely the present day. I have become what I never could have imagined, compromised in the ways I thought was only of the weakest, most ignoble souls, and have accumulated the ever increasing debt of my decisions I thought were best at the time.

They say I am had by a devil, but I don’t know how much it really concerns me in the given circumstances. I neither believe the lies of shadows that death is the end of this suffering; even I know better. That would be far too easy. Angels and demons, but I know only one and of which is no light felt. Thousands of swift years and they’ve all plenty knowledge of feeling trapped as well- this we share in common perhaps. For it most often has appeared that the laws of nature have bent themselves to oppose against all reason. 

Thusly, In the time between reconciling all of these; I leave my marks, never in knowledge of if I will return.

38- The Lesser Darkness

For a moment I was unsure of what I was even looking at, but soon realized that I beheld wings on this child’s back. At first glance it appeared as a smooth, felt black mass, tucked down flush along her back and down past, as though neither water nor air could pass between any of the feathers- each perfectly flush with the others. Slowly, as though requiring a greatly painful effort, the wings separated from her back with a seemingly involuntary trembling, twitching motion. She reached back, and with one wing in each hand, lifted them up to an unexpectedly larger wingspan, perhaps nearly four cubits across. The wings appeared nearly dead of their own accord to raise themselves. 

The inner feathers slightly lightened in color, dark grey edged with silver. Unlike the exterior, the inner portions of her wings were much more disheveled and damaged; how one would imagine the shredded wings of an avian that had lost the battle with a much larger prey. 

I couldn’t help but instinctively reach out and touch what had long been only a thing of fairytale and folklore. I’d heard a great many fantastical tales and seen many things, but never had I believed in- much less seen- a winged being that was neither bird nor angel, though the wings resembled an uncanny mix of both. I found myself mindlessly running my hand over the soft, varying textures, almost mesmerized by how surreal it seemed.                                                    I realized I ought not to make her feel uncomfortable, and as I went to right my composure, saw what made my heart sink in my chest.

37- The Lesser Darkness

I tucked the leaf away in my pocket.

“Why are you here? Just wandering, or passing the time so idly in a place of such seeming nothingness?” I could not help but wonder how old this girl truly was, and what had brought her too to this strange inbetween place (or so I had surmised). 

“What do you mean why? I don’t have much time left. I’ve nowhere I need to be, or go. Why would I not be here?” she replied matter-of-factly.

Great, someone else who either made little sense or was speaking in riddles. I needed a different approach.                                       

“Don’t you have a family, a companion? Won’t they be worried- while you’re out here dwindling the days away in the far middle of some nameless woods?”

She laughed as though she found the question so ridiculous.                        

“I believe you already know the answer to that one mister. Why are *you*here, I would ask- but I too very well may already know.”

She paused, as though suddenly weary of her own resistance, and continued.                                             “I was praying. I don’t know if there’s really a god out there, or if he would listen to another fool and scoundrel such as myself- but it can’t hurt and I’ve nothing left but time, of which I do believe that mine draws to a near close.”

“You keep saying that, so morbid and cryptic as well. Why in the world would you think that the case? I’m sure when you find your way out of this place- if you are even lost at all- you’ve your entire life ahead of you. Or at least the rest of this one,” I quickly added, wondering if she would reveal as to if she too had lived many lives before. 

She laughed again, this time less convincingly, as though an old wound had been reopened by something I had said. 
“I’ve sure heard *that* one before. You’re right, but I don’t have the strength anymore to get to the rest of it.” 

She turned her back to me, which again drew my notice to the odd shape of her back beneath black fabric, jutting out at an unnatural angle. She must have known my wondering, as she lowered the cloak to unveil her back; looking over her shoulder at me, as though assessing my reaction

36- The Lesser Darkness


      I suppose that coming from me, she had a fair point. However, I had no memories of ever having been a child- in any life- much less any type of supposedly instinctive emotional attachment to a parental figure. I thought to inquire where her parents were, but if she truly was a one like myself, it would be a foolish question. 

 The girl crouched down to the ground and began tracing lines in the dirt with a small stick of birch in her hand. There didn’t appear to be any particular form she was drawing. 

“Do you have a name?” 
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, beside asking for what I was sure would be convoluted directions. 

“Wouldn’t you like to know…”           Her voice sounded a bit sad, trailing off as though she were lost in a world of her own.                                 “I don’t think it would really make any difference.”                                 She continued, engrossed with her drawing in the mud.

“If you’ve been here since before I wandered along last night, did you hear all those people talking, or where it was coming from?”

“I heard nothing but the stillness. I would however keep that to yourself in the future.”

So now hearing voices in my head was becoming a trend. Fantastic.    As it were, I’d already long been concerned that I’d lost some parts of my mind that I may have needed- a long, long time ago.

“And no, you didn’t imagine it-”      She drew a large circle in the ground around her. 
“They can tell you things that you did not know-if you know how to listen. Some useful, others just to confuse you. You’ll have to figure out the difference for yourself.”

“And you just happened to be hanging out here,” I stated rhetorically.

“I sensed you nearby… Nothing else to do… and I hadn’t seen a person in quite some time….”                           She stood up, eyes still fixed on the ground.                                               She continued, “but you seem to ask a lot of questions. I suppose next you’ll ask where you should be going, or what you’re supposed to do next.”

She stooped down again, barely touching a tiny shoot with what looked like a single red maple leaf on the end, just rising up from the inky soil.  I had no reply.

“Everyone so very worried about where we’re going, what we’re accomplishing…When you’ve been around long enough to see that there is no destination-only all the steps inbetween here and the place you’re going; each step a memory as soon as it is had. Human be-ings, not human do-ers.” 
She pulled the single red leaf, rose and looked me dead in the eye, her voice again full of an unmasked sadness,
“And in those darkest places which we have yet to see, let the memories visit you-and you visit them; they will be your only company.”

I got the distinct impression that the subject had abruptly changed.

“And when I get to where I’m going, I’m sure I’ll again see that it wasn’t what I thought, and again turn around and start going to the next ‘somewhere else’. Yes. I do know.” I gave a fake laugh. 

Her brilliant eyes reflected a glimmer of amusement. She smiled weakly, and handed me the little crimson leaf.

35- The Lesser Darkness

I awoke to a dimly lightened sky, casting a dull luminescence to the scenery around me. The waters had receded and I was lying on a thin bed of bright green moss amidst the mud. I had not noticed the moss the night before with the waters covering what I now saw to be a fairly serene view, though still entirely muted in color. The soft lichen beneath me was by far the most lively thing to be seen in this place- a florescent green, bright enough as though it had grown just in the time I had been asleep. How long that had been I could neither be sure of- not if what the man had said about the exceedingly lengthy stay of Night and unpredictably scarce Sunlight was true. 
I rose, made a futile attempt at scraping off some of the mire, and beheld a more clear idea of just how far the strangely oppressive trees stretched into the distance over grey earth. 

I noticed something move in the distance, of which I otherwise would not have noticed was there amidst the trees. I moved a bit closer in proximity. Looking from behind a gnarled oak, I saw the back of a black, hooded cloak facing away from where I stood. The assumed person was diminutive and misshapen in figure, ever so slowly sauntering along, stopping to look around, and resuming a clearly nonchalant pace. I decided they didn’t look big enough to be much a threat, and approached the figure, standing off to the side. I didn’t really have anything to say, at this point, I was just needed anything to facilitate suggestion of where I could go from here. 

“I’ve never seen one sleep so evidently comfortably in the mud.” A small, unexpectedly gentle voice broke the silence. 

I moved about to see her face, but it was nearly entirely shrouded in the shadow of her cloak.

“If you saw me sleeping, then you know that this whole place was flooded last night. How long have you been watching me?”

“I was here first- you just didn’t notice,” she replied. 

It was the delicate voice of a little girl-spoken with a tone entirely devoid of emotion, yet somehow intrinsically kind and reassuring at the very same time.                       There was an uncomfortable period of silence. 

She then lowered the hood of her cloak and gazed seemingly right through me with piercing cyan eyes. She was a petite child I would have guessed to be seven years old at the most. Her impossibly blonde, straight hair embraced her face, just barely brushing the top of her narrow shoulders. 

“What in the hell is a child of your age, stature, and a girl- doing out here?” I forgot my manners entirely-or that I was ironically enough, speaking to a seven year old. 

“What in the hell would lead you to assume the number of my years, or the possession of my right to be here just as much as you?” she now matched my tone, with an inordinately mature semblance- yet eyes that flashed almost playfully.

34- The Lesser Darkness

The pain at the bottom of my skull roused me back to reality from my useless existential wandering, and I found myself still mechanically wading through the waters, again unaware of how much time had elapsed. All I knew was if I didn’t know I had been walking, I’d think I was still precisely where I had begun. I took notice of the intensifying pain and concluded that I was indeed awake, and in this fucked up nonsense place.                  

 I was drenched, pissed off and shaking; exhausted and longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to rest amidst the waters. I couldn’t think clearly and felt my mind retreating to somewhere else; but I needed it to stay here and figure out where the hell I was going and what I was going to do. Unnecessary panic rose in my tight chest. I reached up to my temple,squinting now through blurring vision, and attempted to reassure myself that I was simply overtired. 

I again began to hear voices, whispering. They were coming from every direction- or perhaps they were only in my head; I could not discern which, but the poorly hushed whispers grew in urgency as though a small counsel were debating some crucial matter. I couldn’t make out any clear words, though it still didn’t sound like any language I knew of.                                I suddenly was reminded of the messenger bag I had grabbed in my hasty exit and the scroll the man had instructed me not to open. I pulled it from the bag, otherwise empty, were it not for the knife remaining in the bottom.             Come on, how could he expect such instructions would do anything but increase my curiosity? Perhaps it was a map or had some kind of instruction. 

 The quarreling voices abruptly silenced, as though they were waiting- or watching. Reaching for the Red seal, the pain suddenly grew, shooting up my spine and turning into a nauseating ache from the back of my neck. My hand jerked away to grab my neck. I did not know if the pain was associated with the scroll, but quickly returned it to its place in the bag, deciding against any further interest.                         The voices now began speaking in a plain tone and volume, almost as though in tandem with the pain coursing through blood and sinew.    I had first felt the pain when I took the vial the nameless man had given me- what a fool I was to trust anyone. I could not deny however that I had not yet hungered or fainted, as I had always had a propensity for. 

I decided against allowing any impairment to hinder my progress in getting where I was going- or at least out of this now swamp.The useless voices were dizzying in their unintelligible chatter. Was there anyone even there?                              I just needed to rest and I was only growing more and more angry and disoriented with all of these cumulative annoyances. I continued on, trying to regain my easily fractured composure. The light of the beaming moon was now strangely distant. I decided to try lying down in a muddy though shallow rise of the floodwaters. Propping my head up on a rock, I fell asleep to the sound of the voices fading into the distance.