Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Capricorn One Plus Me

trying to ferret out the irks of working too much
like my head is aboard Capricorn One
a thumbnail of sunlight on a crumpled paper bag
the surface of Mars
cigarette ash ground into the carpet


so there’s this guy, see, who takes a trip to see the sights, you know, he has a real good time, anyway, he decides to call his brother, see, and, well, he asks his brother, how’s everything at home, and his brother says, the cat died, and the guy says, you shouldn’t tell me bad news like that, you know, not like that, you should tell me something like, well, something like the cat crawled out on the roof chasing some mice, and we had to call the fire department, and when the firemen went up to get the cat, well, the cat slipped and fell to the ground, see, and we had to take the cat to the vet, and they were going to operate on the cat, you know, but it was too late, they couldn’t save the cat, that’s how you should break bad news, like that, see, so the guy says to his brother, how’s mom, and the brother says she’s on the roof

mottled stains and the desert’s red rock
a funeral under an elm
the gravity of slow motion and sleep and goldbricking
patience and a weak-kneed resistance to trying
and the filamentous flowing of the thoughts of free-thinking beings
ex tempore
a lot of going and not much coming back

this is she

and he banks it in, he’s eating up rebounds, and we’re tied at 53, approaching the 6-minute mark, he’s burning up the nets tonight, they’ll reshuffle, reset the offense, he’s got to hurry, clock shot winding down, they’ve gone stagnant, and here we go, it’s the hard-nosed point guard from Chicago, baseline, all alone, good, he knocks it down, 56-53, and we’ve got 4:40 to play, second half, and he’s really banging the boards out there, he takes it to the bucket, oh my goodness, what a finger roll, and he gets up limping, we’ve got a couple of guys limping, it may be momentary because when he gets back in the flow, forget about it, you can tell he played a little football, look at that body, they’re clinging arms on the bench, and we’ve got a timeout with just under four minutes to go


shallow crescent-like indentations form like cups to catch the rain
humps and hounding shadows
a scow rived in twain
try not to flinch
when the cops hogtie you and drag you from your home

It’s the sleeping pills. At first, maybe, you just take one now and again, maybe when you get that feeling, that busy-brain feeling, when the lights on your neural pathway all stay green for too long. So you take one, and you sleep pretty well, and you’re groggy in the morning, but after a cup of coffee you actually feel pretty damn refreshed, even energized and filled with an unusual amount of pep and vim, and sure, maybe some vigor too. Those things usually go together. You know, like peas and pods and those kinds of things. Stupid things like that. Really stupid things. But then the next night you get worried that maybe you won’t be able to sleep, you know, because you took that pill the last night to sleep, and now your body is a bit more dependent on the chemicals the pill gives it to regulate its diurnal cycle properly, and you start thinking about circadian rhythms and melatonin and hypnagogic states, and then the worry starts in, you know, when you are pretty much convincing yourself that sleep will never come, and you start checking the red digits on your clock over and over as they blink away in the dark, and you think about how much time you have until the alarm goes off, counting down the hours, and you turn over and change positions and try to breathe slowly and not think about anything, which only makes you think more, and you start thinking about how hard it is not to think about anything, which leads you in vicious circles of meandering muddled craziness, and time flies but you are not having any fun. So, you give up at some point. You take another pill. And at some point your alarm beeps and beats you awake, but you are even groggier this time, and you think, God, what an idiot I am, why didn’t I just take that pill earlier. I could’ve got a decent night’s sleep and I wouldn’t be so damn tired right now. Then the next night it’s worse, because you are beyond tired, a zombie, a slab of flesh, and you are worn out and your nerves are frayed and you want nothing more than to just sleep and sleep for a long time, for as long as you possibly can. But, you know that if you fall asleep too early you’ll wake up at some stupid time like 3:13 am, and you won’t be able to fall back asleep. You’ll just lie there and listen to your heart beating, and thinking about stupid things, and doing stupid things, and feeling really tired but wide awake at the same time. So, now there are two options. You fall asleep early, and then when you do wake up in the middle of the night, you take a sleeping pill and fall back to sleep. That plan sounds like the best. The other option of staying up until bedtime, and then forcing yourself to fall asleep naturally because you are overtired, seems like a more risky alternative. You do not want to take the chance on staying up and then having your body readjust and start to think it’s morning, rendering you a million miles from dreamland once again, but still overwhelmingly fatigued. The nap plan doesn’t work though. You are barely able to get into the beginning of an oneiric episode when a car alarm goes off outside your window. After that, there’s no way sleep’s a coming. But you are still too sluggish to get up out of bed, so you just lie there and stare around at the shadows growing all over, as the sun paints the walls in pinkish hues, and you can feel sleep moving further away. At some point you finally crawl out of bed, feeling like a real piece of shit for wasting away your evening in this catatonic state, and you stumble through the darkness to find the bathroom, because you’ve really got to take a leak, and you trip over your shoes and stub your toe on something and bitch and moan and call yourself an idiot as the night starts berating you through the window. You close the blinds. You turn on the TV. You sit up in bed and watch whatever comes on. You reach in the bedside table’s drawer. You take out the small amber bottle of pills. You fill your mouth with spit. You take one. You take another one. They go down easy, those white and green oblong capsules. They slide right down. You feel triumphant. Finally you’ve won a battle in this war. You will sleep for a long, long time. Everything will be just rosy tomorrow. Tomorrow all will be soft wind and roses. Life will stand tall and free again.

birchbark boats headed north
clipped river saps drowsy on the sun-baked horizon
coupling insects
sticks hitching stray weeds to the shore
an upset canoe’s hull caught on a sandbar
a jarring flex of side-winding wind

picturing circles overlapping in a blue-back world of likes and loves and less than that too when things are restless and running away and diminishing and dizzying while broken old scalene triangles swing from acute to obtuse and lose their appeal and hexagons die alone in the street without a sound and she’s still wearing his ring and the telephone wires are strung with shoes and the lawnmowers have all gone out of tune and you’re painting the room with rectangles and polyhedrons and the bow has lost the arrow and the camera has lost its film and the husband has lost his wife and the moon has lost its way among the stars after having a cross-eyed dream of what it means to be in love with the sky

sure enough

élan comes and goes
sure it does
it does
in a recherché way
it can stay
this is just to say
surely is

the way the two sides of the building come together at the top the way they meet at the angle that they do up there just below where I am looking into the smoky blue behind the sign on the top of the building just above where those sides meet at that angle there it reminds me of something makes me feel something that is nice and easy and windy and effortless the kind of the thing that is drowsy like the sound of an airplane in the distance and it is more pleasant than I’ve felt in a long time and I start to remember an April morning maybe ten years ago and the way I felt then that was like this feeling but it was almost triumphant then and now it is just empty

he lived in a small apartment next to another small apartment in which lived a girl whom he had fallen madly in love with though he had never really talked to her much except to say hi and how’s it going and that kind of stuff. but he was madly in love with her. he was in love with her laugh the most of all. it may have been the most salient thing he could think of about her that had actually led him from liking to wanting to like-loving to falling madly in love with her. he would often hear her laughing through the thin wall between their apartments while she was talking on the phone or when she had friends over who were making her laugh. he loved hearing her laugh. it made him want to make her laugh but he never had. he wasn’t good at telling jokes and he got nervous whenever he was around her which made him not be able to think of things to say besides a breathy kind of hi and how’s it going kind of thing. he figured the girl probably wasn’t very impressed by this. he wouldn’t spy on her but it was hard for him not to kind of notice things that she was doing like the sounds she was making whether it was washing dishes or dropping what sounded like large objects on the floor or listening to music. if he happened to hear a song coming from her apartment that was a song that he liked he would start imagining what it would be like to be listening to that song with her and would fantasize about them lying in the dark wrapped up in post-coital bliss on his bed together listening to that song. sometimes he even imagined them to be smoking cigarettes too. so it was that he came to have this idea of who she was based on what he could glean from his imagined forays into her world and the wire-tapping-type way he had of observing her private life. to him she was someone who she may not really have been at all. he imagined that somehow they would fall madly in love with each other at some point. or that she would fall madly in love with him. for he was already madly in love with her. he would construct elaborate scenarios where they would cook dinner at one of their apartments and then go over to the other person’s apartment to eat while they watched Humphrey Bogart movies and said all the best lines together. silly stuff like that. most of all he just wanted to make her laugh. he dreamed of how they’d eventually knock down the wall that separated their apartments and thought of how they would pound it down with sledgehammers and how they’d wear face masks and thick gloves and would laugh at all the rubble of drywall and wood boards tumbling down in a heap. it would be fun. but he couldn’t figure out how they’d haul all of the rubble away or how they would get permission from the landlord for this or why in the hell they’d want to do this in the first place because wouldn’t he want his privacy and wouldn’t she need her space too and the apartments didn’t really fit together well because her kitchen wall would be gone and where would he put his tv and then he started thinking this is stupid why the hell do I put up with this shit from other people and she probably will try to change me and make me do things that I don’t want to do and she’ll cry and try to get her way and I’ll have to pay for things when we go out and I’ll have to get her presents on the holidays and they’ll never be just what she wants and her parents probably won’t like me and maybe her friends and I won’t get along and how the hell did I ever end up in this goddamn relationship tied down god I just want to be free to do my own thing and I’m so sick of you laughing all the time why the hell are you always bothering me for fuck’s sake just get the hell out of my life and leave me the fuck alone.

we are heartless and our right wing is damaged by the winds of discontent
we are mugged and gut-shot and rarely adept
we are muddled
we are mixed and matched and morose at best
we are bandwagon hoppers and mundane hooligans and hopscotch champions
we are as bored as statues
we are aching to be entertained
we are stranded and bled dry
we are kind of absurd
we are lucky to be alive

so he is talking and he is saying things I don’t know things like this next piece I shall be reading to you entitled Maximum Entropy is a piece I originally wrote on a napkin at a bar called Puddy’s Place after having had six martinis and then he reads this aloud to the crowd:
not part of the solution we are somebody else’s problem
up in the air
cut it out kids just cut it out why don’t you why can’t you just cut it the fuck out kids
made up out of thinness and water
came back on through all the way around again to be where we were going
came out just like this
so how is it out there lacking the figuring out and the ways of suppose
the area is fraught with powers that are hungry
which who am I
never telling
a thing
that will make a disturbance
in the calm of understand
chuck the difference
the end is just beginning

This guy calls on the phone. The phone is always ringing. It’s in its nature to ring. It’s what a phone does. This guy says hello this is Steve and he says I work for Straminium Consorted Alarum Freight & Lumber and he says I heard you were having a little trouble with a business transaction for the account numbered, let’s see, oh yes, #voicesleakinginasadcafe, and he says I would just like you to know that I can help you out of your situation there so what do you think? and he says I could make it worth your while, you see our business here, this company, well, we have just what you need to make things happen for you, to make your whole world a better place, and he says but first we are going to need a few things, and asks can you hear me okay? Am I coming through? And he says good and so now first I’m going to need your social security number and your date of birth and your last three addresses and the names of your first and second cousins and your workplace ID badge number and a copy of your last tax return documents and the deed to your house signed by you in all of the right places of course and all of your paper receipts from, let’s see here, ahem, that would be the year nineteen hundred and seventy seven and the name of your pet donkey that you had back in the fifth grade, and he says I assure you all of this information is not only necessary and very pertinent to your situation but will be kept strictly confidential and not shared with anyone whom you know or do not know except those whom you don’t tell us not to tell which could include all persons here on this big old bubble of a planet we all call home oh yes oh yeah can you dig dig dig dig it?

she says a quick prayer and makes the sign of the cross every time she goes through a yellow light
he doesn’t look half-bad for a suicide
some sort of compensation for missing that ten-foot jumper at the buzzer
meeting people in the ocean
unwanted gifts
and a circus parade in Baraboo
these things are simple to understand
but the compensation for putting up with television
is rarely ever much of a payoff
she hides her bus pass in her boot
he makes methamphetamine out of Sudafed and hairspray in the garret
there are rarely opportunities to answer questions when they’re asked
tea is served at four
she used to be a genius
he had a great left hook
nobody compares grapefruit to cotton candy
gas masks at dusk
low-calorie love notes passed in the dark
paper-flower cartels wreaking havoc on the moon
middle infielders who drink too much and fall in love with girls
she makes Marlboro sandwiches and smokes refried beans for lunch
he tells the time by the freckles on his wrist
the phones have all lost their cords

there was a smell of rain in the air and the buildings all looked like tombstones while the wind kicked and the streetlights shivered and the buses all shot exhaust up into a tarry sky feathered with clouds where the moon was bursting its britches and the tug boats tooted and a bishop fell down the stairs and the streetsweepers fled to the country but the swans just sat around smoking cigars at the race track waiting for a horse named PS Burton to show

Capricorn One. Come in. Are you there? How do you know that you are really you? Capricorn One. This is Houston. We’ve lost your signal. Are you there? Are you going to start saying things like mayday and red alert and shit we are fucked here we are really fucked and we are burning up upon reentry because our heat shield has separated and open the pod bay doors HAL? Come in. Earth to Capricorn One. This is Houston. Are you there? Are you even listening? Can you hear any of this? Please. Answer. Anything. Tell me about the Navier-Stokes equations. Tell me what a Magnetoplasmadynamic thruster is. What are the names of your children? Who invented ice cream? What the hell is going on out there? Please. Come in. Say breaker breaker or something. We’ve lost your signal Capricorn One. You do not exist as far as our computers are concerned. You are no longer you. You are no longer Capricorn One. I am no longer myself. Where does that leave us? Come in. Please come in. I know this must seem desperate. Capricorn One. Are you out there? Can you hear me? Can you hear anything? Can you…hello?