[What follows is an original piece of fiction I wrote some years ago, previously published in Conceptions Southwest, per the citation below.]


Old Wood FloorIn my mind I know what’s waiting at the top of the steps. I always know. Still, I take them, slow, careful, aware of the sickened creak that the weathered boards make under my weight. Once I reach the top, every time, I try to stop myself. Turn back, I say. Don’t walk down that hall. Don’t look through that doorway.

Every time, my feet disobey, carrying me to the room at the end of the hall. A sliver of pale dusk sunlight gasps its way through the crack made by the slightly open door, spilling onto the dull wooden floor. I step cautiously to the door, the light warming a slice of my face, blinding my right eye. A breath, a moment of nauseous realization, a splinter in my finger as I nudge open the door. Then there’s the blood. The sick warmth of the room, the way it crawls, stinging, into my nostrils. My father, barefoot, slumped over his shotgun. I imagine the vacant, listless look in his eyes, just before he hears it. Click–

I found him a week before my tenth birthday, but in the dream I am as I am now–26, sagging shoulders, a belly that crumples on top of itself when I sit. I am rarely shaven, my hair sticks at odd angles that I don’t care to smooth down. I wonder at my own fate, how it might resemble his, vacant promises to myself when I think of my son. He came when I was twenty, living with his mother more out of comfort than genuine affection. I used to write to him often, sending candy or a toy car when I could, but the letters started coming back a few months ago, the mark from the post office in dull red.

I always wake with the click.

* * *

I count the change in my pocket, adding it to the crumpled bills, and the lady hands me a burrito wrapped in white paper, damp with its warmth. Outside I expose an end and bite deep into it, tasting almost instantly the heat of the green chile and the smoky flavor of the carne adovada. It makes my mouth water, and for a moment, it will calm the churning in my stomach.

As I finish my meager lunch, I spot Hefty down the street, waddling his way toward me. He’s dragging something, I can’t see what. His name is Jeff, but on the street we call him Hefty, mostly because of his weight and partly because he thinks himself the boss, always trying to order everyone around, as if he had a reign on the desperate freedom these streets bring. Shit, he hasn’t even been out here that long. I wipe my mouth with the crumpled wrapping paper and push myself with a foot off the wall, giving Hefty half a wave.

Hey Fano, he calls to me, his breath heavy. Why don’t you help me with these?

I see now he’s got two fat, worn tires in tow on a wiry rope, scraping along the sidewalk. Get them yourself, pinche gordo, I say with a smile before moving to help him. What the hell do you need with two tires, anyway?

You never know, he says. We bring the tires to Hefty’s spot down the alley, rolling them behind a grimy dumpster near his folds of bedding.

You get any big tips?

I chuckle, shaking my head. Business slow today, jefe, I say.

* * *

The first time I saw Lucia was at my cousin’s graduation party. It might have been my party, too, but I gave up on school a long time ago. I remember–she catches my eye as soon as I step into the soft yellow light of the den, a haze of cigarettes and mota hanging in a dome over the circle of tattered furniture. She sits on a couch in the corner of the room, between Alejan’s girl and some kid I don’t know. Her smile warms the room as her brown eyes meet mine.

I look quickly away, searching the room for Alejan, asking him where I can get a drink.

A week later I see her again as I leave the construction yard where I work. In the lazy afternoon light I get a better look at her, able to notice the soft earth tones of her skin, her long eyelashes that don’t need makeup, her full pouty lips. She walks up to me as I beat the dust from my faded jeans.

Hey, she says, and I turn to face her, squinting at the sun as it halos her form. Alejan gave me directions, she tells me. He said I should meet you.

I smile to mask the discomfort I feel. He should have let you catch me at a better time, I say, gesturing at my filthy clothes. But what I really mean is, I’m not prepared for this.

She follows me home, and after I shower and change I drive her to Beto’s on the other side of town. A real hole in the wall, but they have good carne asada and cheap beer. Her warm eyes and her subtle, earthy scent make me forget myself for a moment. A month later we live together. It’s a year, though, before I tell her about the dreams.

* * *

I knew something was wrong, she says. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? She lies on the bed next to me, propped up on one arm. I see worry in her soft eyes. Her tiny hand strokes the dampness off my cheek.

I didn’t think it mattered, I say, turning on my side so I don’t have to face her.

It matters to me, she says, wrapping herself around me and pulling me close. It matters if it affects your sleep, if it affects us.

It won’t, I say. It hardly ever happens. I turn and nestle myself into her neck. I try to breathe her in deep, let myself relax in her arms. She holds me close, runs fingers through my hair and along the base of my spine. I feel like, maybe, it’s all that I need. Until she tells me about the baby, a few months later, it seems that it is.

* * *

Hefty goes off to catch the bus to Old Town. They don’t know me there, yet, he says. Better for business if they haven’t seen you hanging around too much.

I wander listlessly after he’s gone, the harsh noon sun beating down upon me at an angle that makes no room for cool shadows. Eventually I return to the alley, sit atop the dumpster, and stare into the dusty crevices between the bricks of the wall, the scent of decaying trash and stagnant water stinging my nostrils. After some time Nico saunters up, a toothy smile painted across his leathery face.

Who put the feather in your ass, I say as he nears me, bobbing his head to a silent tune. He doesn’t answer, and he doesn’t need to. His pupils and the blood-strained space around them tell enough.

Idiot, I say, shaking my head. That shit’s gonna end you.

* * *

Later I check my box at the post office, knowing I’ll find nothing, but hopeful just the same. I keep the box because it’s the only thing I haven’t lost in my life, and because I know if Lucia ever wants to find me, this is the only way she’ll know how.

I remember when she left, taking Benicio. I am gone, on my monthly trip to the unemployment office. I come home to find the empty bones of the apartment, cleared of our few possessions, only the piss-stained mattress lying defeated in the corner of the muggy room. I stay in the apartment for another month and a half before the landlord changes the locks.

It takes me a couple of weeks, but I finally badger Lucia’s new address out of her mother.

This is for the boy, not you, she tells me over the phone. Not much of a father is better than no father, she says and hangs up.

I send Lucia a letter, just to see how things are going. I only half expect her to write back, so I’m surprised to find a postcard from her almost two weeks later. On the front is a photograph of a deep green mountainside pierced by a waterfall, its billowing jets of white water frozen in free fall as they plummet into the misty haze below.

In the short paragraph on the other side, just below the Denver postmark, she tells me about Beni. He’s never been happier, she writes. Don’t worry about visiting, it says, just above her curvy signature. It’s the only letter I receive.

* * *

I hear it–click–and then she’s there, her hand upon my face, her eyes sharp, concerned. She wipes her fingers through the beads of sweat on my brow.

You went there again, didn’t you, she says. You found him again.

I can’t help it, I tell her. My sleep takes me there.

It’s happening too often, she says, sitting up. It’s affecting us, now. Pale blue moonlight peeks through the blinds and fragments her face.

A cry starts up from across the room, and she leaves the bed to check on him. She’s right. The dreams aren’t just inside me anymore. They make this place dark.

Soon the crying stops, and she crawls back next to me. I want to look at her, to see into her through her eyes, but I can’t make myself move. I want to say I’m sorry, to tell her it will stop, I’ll make it stop, to tell her I’ll be better for her, for Beni. I lie next to her, silent, until her breathing takes on rhythm.

* * *

The afternoon crawls, a long, vast nothing. I collect change for a while off the Interstate exit, offering the legal notices section of the paper for a quarter, a dime, whatever beat college kids in their rusty pickups and old ladies peering over the steering columns of their long, sleek town cars decide to spare. This is all I have today, I say with a shrug, and they trade change for the folded paper, tossing it behind seatbacks and rolling on with pitying half-smiles.

Eventually the sun falls to the horizon, sinking into distant mountains with rays of gold-piercing, shadowy building facades. This time of day always brings waves of yellow sickness to my stomach, like eating a bad egg. I turn my corner over with a nod to Jacob, carrying as always his bucket of wilted roses, and trudge toward Central. I count out change for a pint of Dark Eyes at the corner store on 3rd, and the clerk hands me the bag, the condescending darkness on his face unmistakable. I’m the first one to the alley–for most the night is young, but the day has been enough for me, and I’m ready for the warm blanket of drink, ready to walk the short night hallway once again.

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This work of fiction was previously published as follows:

Sanders, Ryan S. “Click.” Conceptions Southwest Vol. XXVII (2004): 107-110. Print.


We Are The Ryan. Who? We. On first. Bases loaded…

Beard of Doom

We Are The Ryan. We exist to destroy Ourselves. To understand Ourselves. Destruction makes way for new Life, new growth. New essence. New We.

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.” — Fernando PessoaThe Book of Disquiet

We Are The Ryan. We Are the All becoming One, We Are the particle from which springs All. We Are the light and the dark within, We Are grey spiral and churning and form from void.



We Are the Enigma. We Are subjective, the voice you know. We Are everything you seek to understand. We Are the obscured, and the apparent.  We Are pretense and irony and burlesque hyperbolic gravitas.

We Are paradox. We Are contradiction and absurdity. We Are as familiar as skin.

“Mike did not seem to grasp the idea of Creation itself. Well, Jubal wasn’t sure that he did, either — he had long ago made a pact with himself to postulate a Created Universe on even-numbered days, a tail-swallowing eternal-and-uncreated Universe on odd-numbered days — since each hypothesis, while equally paradoxical, neatly avoided the paradoxes of the other — with, of course, a day off each year for sheer solipsist debauchery.” — Robert A. HeinleinStranger in a Strange Land

We Are The Ryan. We Are irreverence and contempt. We Are the warm embrace of scorn. We Are the sarcastic smirk across the face of the world, We Are the blatancy of state-sponsored slaughter, We Are your voyeuristic thirst for televised lawless disregard. We Are your after-church programming.

We Are laughter at a funeral, we are a selfie in a coffin. We Are ever changing and fickle and impermanence manifest in SQUIRREL! We Are a strobe to heal your seizure and subliminal plastic advertizing. We Are on during the sporting event of the century!

We Are beer and brats and Sunday afternoon, We Are laughter drowning sorrow and a distraction from the dread. We Are hope and denial and a sunset behind a raincloud and beauty within the beast, the underlying and the disregarded and all the We as You wish to see but never remember how to find. We Are the uncomfortable Looking.

“He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a verb in the past tense.” — James JoyceThe Dubliners

We Are The Ryan. We Are the hooligan with a heart of gold. We Are the charming and the loyal and the overbearing and the suffocation. We Are the polished shit, the sweet-tooth addict-craving, the forbidden caramel apple and the last clinging tooth. We Are hillbilly chic. We Are the final confused joke after the laughter has long left.

We Are constant self-appraisal and the doubting trailing voice. We Are awkward sidelong clingings and the echoes of passed time. We Are voice given to scar, a sound bled dried and crusty, flaked desert parched sands and halite in your self-inflicted exploratory surgery.

Photo by Walter Freeman, Dec. 16, 1960 Howard Dully receiving his "ice pick" lobotomy Dec. 16, 1960

Photo by Walter Freeman, Dec. 16, 1960
Howard Dully receiving his “ice pick” lobotomy Dec. 16, 1960

We Are the child hiding in a corner, the beaten and broken without will to escape. We Are the towering behemoth wielding pain internalized and compounded, formed and redirected. We Are an open wound, gaping, pungent. We Are what must heal from the inside, We Are the cotton-stuffed urgency of everything We never wished to see.

“The Dark Crow Man sits And stares into Oblivion… Into Cold… Into Nothingness.  It’s snowing in His mind.  He’s created Himself in His own Image.”  — Lamb of God, The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion

Artwork by Four Star Tattoo, Santa Fe, NM

Artwork by Four Star Tattoo, Santa Fe, NM

We Are The Ryan. We Are the voice inside, loud. We Are the escaping breath of daring and uncertainty and doubt made whole, driven with guile and madness towards grasping, fickle fingers. We Are what must be said to make room for what comes next, for We Are the road traveled and the traveler, destination and journey and purpose and…


We Are The Ryan.

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Immaculate Light and Water: Pink Floyd’s The Endless River Sails Into Eternity

pink-floyd-the-endless-river-art“We bitch and we fight/Diss each other on sight…”

Aside from a couple of strategically placed spoken-word samples, these striking lyrics make up the first sung vocals to appear on the recently released, and highly anticipated, Pink Floyd album The Endless River. If the words themselves do not immediately pique the interest of even the most casual listener, they are certainly made all the more notable in that they appear nearly 45 minutes deep in the musical experience, a lengthy stretch of ambiance even for the sonically expansive, technically proficient prog-rock masters that are Pink Floyd. On an album largely obsessed with themes dealing in the necessity of maintaining and improving communication in our shared human experience — indicated by song titles such as “Things Left Unsaid”, “The Lost Art of Conversation”, and “Louder Than Words” — this relative absence of lyrical content may seem to be paradoxical, even hypocritical. A sparseness of singing is certainly the chief complaint I have heard from others regarding Pink Floyd’s first — and supposedly final — offering in over 20 years. However, to assume the decision by the band to relegate vocals to a specific and climactic moment is rooted in anything other than deliberate intent would be a mistake.

Richard Wright, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason circa 1994

Richard Wright, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason circa 1994

With these lyrics — which come during the final track of River, the aforementioned “Louder Than Words” — one might be tempted to assume guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour has indicted global society as a whole, expressing in clear and simple terms the root of our animosity, conflict, and miscommunication with one another. While this may not be a poor or even wholly incorrect interpretation, especially considering the often intentionally ambiguous and open nature of music and lyrics, it is not indicative of the imagery and meaning that was immediately conjured in my mind.

During my first experience of the album, I had been toying with the idea that The Endless River seemed to perhaps be not only a swan song for the group (which has been stated by Gilmour in interviews) but also perhaps an extension of the proverbial olive branch, a way of resolving and seeking closure for their occasionally tumultuous past and history. Anyone even casually familiar with the story of Pink Floyd is certainly aware of the bitter and lengthy rift between former bass guitarist and vocalist Roger Waters and the rest of the group. In fact, when the announcement for this album was made official in April earlier this year, Waters was quick to distance himself by publicly and loudly reminding all of us that he had no input or involvement in this Pink Floyd offering (we know, Roger…we all know). So, it is not a stretch to believe that “this thing we do” refers to the career and history of Pink Floyd itself, and that the lost art of communication which Gilmour laments could be speaking of the toxic communication between the members, each other and Waters.

Roger Waters, the "Lost Floyd"

Roger Waters, the “Lost Floyd”

The argument that this swan song is also a last rights of sorts, a pleading for reprieve from the suffering of past sins, exists wordlessly throughout the rest of the album, as well. With The Endless River, the entire history and lifespan of Pink Floyd passes before our eyes, as the instrumental journey retraces steps from notable points throughout their storied career, from the early Syd Barrett days, to towering achievements such as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, all the way through this album’s now 20 year old predecessor, The Division Bell. As dearly departed keyboardist Richard Wright’s contributions — Wright tragically succumbed to a battle with cancer in 2008 — were largely culled from unused improvisations recorded during the Bell sessions, one might expect to hear some similarities to that album. However, when we come across echoes of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in “It’s What We Do”, saxophone and guitar/synth interplay reminiscent of moments on Dark Side during “Sum” and “Skins”, and even the grandeur and ostentatious choral splendor of The Wall on “Allons-Y”, this album’s exploration and homage to their past cannot be mistaken for anything other than deliberate, meaningful soul-searching and self-appraisal. This is the work of aging artists gaining a newfound wisdom, and looking back to dissect and lay to rest the wreckage of their turbulent past. After all, this Life, this thing we all do, is bigger than each of us as individuals.

The late Richard Wright, Floyd's unsung hero on keys

The late Richard Wright, Floyd’s unsung hero on keys

What, then, to make of the album’s title itself? The Endless River. Given the smooth, languid flow of the album as well as the fluid pace of the musical journey we as listeners experience, the title seems fitting enough. But how do we reconcile what has been indicated by Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason to be their final output as this band with a titular reference towards eternity? My feeling is that this album is intended to mark Pink Floyd’s departure from this, our physical reality, into the afterlife, so to speak. The endless river could refer to something along the lines of the river Styx, which in Greek mythology forms the boundary between and connects Earth and the Underworld. The endless river is the universe itself, the primordial ether from which all things spring and to which all things return. Fitting, then, that Pink Floyd have chosen to sail into the great unknown by embracing and reconciling every part of themselves, so that their entrance into eternity comes from a state of weightless innocent bliss, just as we all “are” when we come to be.

Last Men Sitting - Gilmour and Mason, present day

Last Men Sitting – Gilmour and Mason, present day

One can only hope we all have such a sublime and restorative opportunity at our own end, to rejoin the universe in shimmering ecstatic motion as pure, immaculate light and water…

Do you agree with these musings? Feel as though something warrants further exploration? Am I completely full of shit and do I need to clean out my ears?! Sound off in the comments!

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

We Are The Ryan, and We Welcome You

“My soul is impatient with itself, as with a bothersome child; its restlessness keeps growing and is forever the same. Everything interests me, but nothing holds me. I attend to everything, dreaming all the while…” – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

We Are The Ryan.

And, if you are reading this, it is already too late. We are inside your head now. We may never leave.

The Being-ness of all things is in a constant state of flux (or IS it?), and my intention with this page is to reflect and perhaps somewhat elucidate that state of eternal change by bringing some of the fleeting randomness which lurks around in my mind out in the open for others to experience. Eventually, I intend for this site to be a sort of all-inclusive home for the entirety of my creative endeavors. But, for now, we shall just have to see how things progress, one blood-letting at a time.

So, what sorts of posts might you, my interested voyeur, expect to find here? That remains to be seen. You are witness to my first attempts as an aspiring writer to utilize resources available to wordsmiths such as myself on the vast and infamous Internets. As such, this is a journey we will absolutely be undertaking together. While my first priority in writing is to write for myself, I would be remiss to suggest that my “Audience” does not play an integral role in this process, as well. Because, in addition to writing simply because I MUST, I am also writing so that I may share these parts of me with others who might wish simply to be vicarious observers, those who may be interested parties, or those who may even find some modicum of inspiration, hope, or comradery in my mad ramblings.  And so, it is also my hope that this page and its content will create some exposure, get the insanity out there a bit. Perhaps even spread the Sickness…

Initially, I intend to aim for three posts per week minimum, unrestrained by format, topic, style, or content. Whatever strikes my twisted, schizophrenic fancy, so to speak. Eventually, I plan to work up to daily posts, and even topical columns and recurring categories. Therefore, much like a Melvins album, you never quite know what you may find here. And, just like a drug dealer, my goal is to give you a fix that makes you want to come back for more. So, leave me some feedback now and again, if you would like. Let me know what highs and lows strike your fancy. But be wary of taking too much. And remember, while civility and respect go a long way…you also really don’t want to cross your supplier. Tread lightly…but please keep treading!

We Are The Ryan.

We Have Arrived.


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.