Tulip Mania

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You’ve heard of that old saying, right?

“One man’s trash,

Is another man’s,

Economic crash,”

You know?

The humble tulip,

A discovery from the new world,

Became a Dutch sensation,

Overnight.

With this bulb-market,

Came speculation,

Large amounts of liquidity,

And rising valuation,

That sowed a coming disaster.

As quickly as it came,

POP! went the bubble,

Consumers, cultivators,

Merchants, kings and peasants,

All came tumbling down.

Player Piano

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A musician never acts alone,

Unless, of course,

they happen to be a drone.

Pay no attention,

To the fact that,

There is no one in front of the curtain.

Études are meant to showcase one’s skill,

But with the amputation,

Of middlemen,

There is no risk,

No drama,

In such a piece.

Chopin’s Opus 25 Number 11,

“Winter Wind”

Played with ruthless calculation,

Feels like little more,

Than a brisk,

Cakewalk.

Corrosion

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Hello old limestone sculpture,

Of an ancient, armored,

Sword-toting,

Female soldier-

Meet acid rain.

Your chiseled face,

Buffed away,

Until the once completed visage,

Looks like modeling clay.

Slowly, but surely, we return to square-1,

That marvelous, marble base,

Laid bare,

Then swiss-cheesed,

By sizzle drizzle.

Behold the disappearing monument,

Matter cannot be created,

Nor destroyed,

But that’s neither here nor there,

Until we put real effort toward conservation,

Of the curated.

Kowloon Walled City

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I’ve built you up quite a bit,

And I’m finding it harder and harder,

To leave than ever before.

If I could see in here,

I’d find unwound wires,

That cross-cross the cracks,

In the concrete,

And trickles of tap water,

That run down your façade.

But being off-the-grid,

Has it’s own advantages-

If walls could talk,

They’d tell you that,

We reach high here,

In spite of what we’re missing.

No sunrise goes unseen,

People stand on their balconies,

With nothing,

And also everything they need.

Vinyl

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Walking,

Blindfolded,

Through the annals,

Feeling the walls,

And using echolocation.

The ancient texts,

Sacred incantations,

Chants of legends,

Contained in texture,

To be deciphered,

By a stylus,

Which cannot,

Transcribe.

Each pressing,

With its own,

Character.

Each batch with,

It’s own,

Flaws,

Hissing,

Popping,

Scratches,

Not even counting,

The shattered ones.

Revolutions,

Dictate,

No matter,

How convoluted,

The labyrinth,

Until it’s time,

To switch,

To the other side.

A Proxy

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I once opened an antique drawer,

And found covered in dust,

A tiny burlap doll,

With black buttons for eyes,

Yellow yarn for golden locks,

And a sewed-up mouth,

That stood at about 1/15th my size.

A stand-in,

For me,

Though I was unconvinced,

And didn’t see the resemblance.

I hope there was no malice in this,

It was kind of cute,

In an unsettling way,

Besides,

I get pins and needles enough as it is.

I pinched him,

Just to make sure,

I wasn’t dreaming,

And wasn’t pleased,

With the results.

Shortwave

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The cellar smelled somewhat of sawdust.

The walls had racks of old radio-sets, my father collected them, modified them and occasionally listened to them.

Sometimes he’d scold me for being down there, sometimes he’d teach me about ham radio.

He was protective of them but, since I was the only one in the family who took an interest in his hobby, he would let me look at them from time to time.

I went down to snoop at three in the morning once. A small, gunmetal grey set on a shelf with a piece of painter’s tape labelled “shortwave” in faded chicken scratch caught my eye that time.

I picked it off the shelf, placed it on the work bench in the corner, turned the light on, and stuck two AA batteries in it.

Immediately it sputtered to life.

A fast-paced folk tune blared out of the speakers accompanied by some interference. I could make out the guitar clearly, but the lyrics sounded like garbled, gargled gobbledygook and it was much too loud to allow it to continue.

I fumbled around looking for the volume controls.

There were two knobs on its side, three sliding switches below them, and a toggle at the top for power; I hastily picked up the radio and played with all of these but the last.

It squeaked and screamed at varying volumes and intensities, when I finally settled on the most innocuous channel I could find.

If it weren’t for some graininess, I’d have assumed nothing was playing and continued my search.

Then a sound like a marble being dropped onto a concrete floor came from the speaker.

I pivoted to scan the ambience, just to be sure nothing fell but all was still.

Another marble fell.

I placed the set back on the workbench, adjusted my seat, and decreased the volume.

“Hm,” I said, putting my ear close to the speaker.

“…9…7…9…3…2…3…8…4…6,” said a warbling male voice with an indescribable accent and cadence quite loudly.

Then grainy silence until another marble dropped.

“The hell was that?” I whispered.

I rested my elbow on the edge of the workbench.

Tak-tak-tak-tak.

I increased the volume.

“…2…6…4…3…3…8…3…2…7…”

Lumbering footsteps rang out from above me.

I wasn’t sure whether I should clean up, keep listening or try to explain what I heard to my father.

For a big guy, he was light on his feet, and already descended to the first story.

Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak.

I turned and looked at the radio, a slight crackling sound emanated from the speakers.

His feet made a “clunk, clunk, clunk,” as they hurriedly descended the stairs.

“Hey are you checking out my radios?” he asked in a sleepy voice.

“I’m- uh-”

“Careful with that one, it’s old,” he said.

Tak-tak-tak-tak.

I looked down at the set; he pivoted to check his surroundings then said “it’s getting a little late.”

“I’ll see myself out,” I said, hastily setting down the device to retreat for the stairs.

He approached the bench.

“…9…5…0…2…8…8…4…”

I heard a muffled “what the hell,” through the cellar door.

Before I went to bed, I heard another plug click into place.

“Not right now.”

I’m not allowed down there to this day.