Saturday, December 31, 2011

on new year’s even astrophysicists get drunk

“I don’t want your heliospheres.”

“Your yes. Your nose.”

“Pleiades, please. There’s room here and there, past there’s here, for bouncing baby boys.”

“Got a gotcha of interstellar mediums comin’ right atchya!”

“A stellar nursery for the never born, and, you you you you you know…that’s it, alright?”

“GMCs to all get out.”

“Ah, go bok globule yourself.”

“Thackeray it up. Go ahead.”

“Don’t make me gravitational collapse your ass.”

“Besides the point.”

“Whose besides?”

“Yours, mine, and all those grownups we know.”


“Ah, forget it. I’m my own magnetosphere.”

“We’re all just dust in the solar wind.”

“Playing it simple, Ganymede?”

“Oh, alright. Charged particles.”

“At least. But I’ve got to check my magnetic filed lines first.”


“Yep. Gladly.”

“Buckle up that radiation belt. Wag that magnetic tail. Get those dipoles straight.”

“You polarized son of an Orion.”

“Quantum mechanical dipole operator, can you help me place this call? Because I can’t read the atomic number that you just gave me.”

“How about we engage in a bit of Stark broadening, for starters?”

“That’s about as close as I’ll get to beating a live horse.”

“Okay. Good. Dandy.”

“Ah, gimme a good old classical linear rigid motor any day over that quantum crapola.”

“It’s like when you’ve got to shit but the toilet seat’s too cold to sit on.”

“Maybe sorta.”

“Let me get my gyroscope out, shiny new gimbals and all.”

“Torque the hell out of it, buddy. Give it a good go.”

“Foucault would kick the shit out of you just for mentioning these unmentionables.”


“Sick the dogs on him boys. Go right on ahead.”

“I’m a ghost. I’m a wish never wished. I’m bowing out and heading for lesser’s well-known territory.”

“Get me a drain. I wanna go down, down, down.”

“Cheese it. I cried with the whole lot of you, quite near 49 times, too.”

“Canopy whatever you’d like. I am nearer than dear.”

“Sniffle, sniff, sniff.”

“Very’s the new sure thing. I’m likely a cactus, more than anything, now.”

“Cured and all raised to heaven all the days and none of the nights.”

“Pop’s opened all through the closed signs. We candle-light our destiny by playing coy with the universe.”

“And the crowd roars, and the music stops, and the traitors lay down their arms. Excitement works short shifts.”

“I’m yawning on the inside.”

“You too?”

“Blessed be the advertisements. And yes, our children are becoming weekend thieves. Trust me, the CB’s getting nothing but sonic booms.”

“Let’s play mean with the prettiest pieces of mindless chatter.”

“Good grief, my man. Good motherfucking grief.”

“Expired patents loaned out to trust-busting hucksters asleep in study carrels, absorbed in their own mediocrity. The clock ticks, but for whom?”

“Intestinal parasites. Locust-gum addicts. Bored auctioneers. Men passed out on rattan patio furniture.”

“There is a refrain I’m refraining from stating just about right about now.”

“Holy holy holy holy.”

“Well, jump my bones, pleat my pants, and call me Armadillidium vulgare, why don’t you?”

“The devil’s a madman praying hardly anymore in the sidecar of god’s chopper. Let’s fit in. Let’s be nicer than kind. Let’s cook everybody’s goose while we still can.”

“Founded on being out of step. Boo to it all. Boo.”

“Put on your best sweater. Let’s keep it cool in here.”

“I’ve got the worst answers you’d ever want to hear.”


“No. Minus. Always minus.”

“First one to lose wins.”

“Like it or like it.”

“I am just a bundle of hankerings. Choices elude me. Stop the mail and cuss out the mayor on the local news. We all don’t get what we do.”

“Another and another and another, and this year’s end is another. Just another another.”

“No fooling?”

“None whatsoever.”

“Run across the lawn with me. We’ll toss confetti, stir it in our brandy with neon swizzle sticks, close down the video stores and wreck havoc on middle-class charm. Come on. Run with me. Run.”

“The bells are playing innocent when you dream. I cannot run. Cross my legs and hope to cry. Not no more. I cannot run no more. Not no more. Popcorn’s a good substitute for ambition, eagerness, and also sentimentality. I cannot run like that, no, not like that. I cannot run like that no more. Not no more.”

“Eavesdroppers make better firing squads than sarsaparilla drinkers. Forget me. I am not alone like that. Not like that.”

“Been around long enough to not know. Oil drums flame. The tankers are gone to war. Be not sour about thy dormant longing. Kiss the morning for me. I ain’t comin’ round here no more. Not no more.”

“Mushy mushy.”

“Fireworks, woots of joy, a hollering in the spotlight, chips flaking off shoulders, very monumental creeks in the woodwork of the world. I am spirited and lightly sprinkled with diffidence.”

“Superannuated natural laws epitomize our dangling lives. We linger ‘neath the shadows that vultures make.”

“Dream me away. I do not exist.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Acquaintances long gone, lest we forget to remember less of what they were, more or less.”

“Been gone long gone too long gone for too long, gone.”

“Up where the air is…?”

“Well, shit. Who knows?”

“Freshly soiled.”

“I am not convinced that unconventional means do the warm’s work. We still all got head colds, and the covers won’t pull anymore, and it’s not any newer, this year. It’s not. It’s not the same though. It’s not.”

“A billion stars for your nightmares. Don’t worry. I’ll keep ‘em safe.”

“Let me pick. Just don’t let me choose.”

“Pack my bags.”

“You’re already there.”

“So? Where is there?”

“It’s where there is.”


“There, there, there. See?”

“Oh. Okay. Yes. Needless to…say?”

“Revive me when you pass out.”

“Got it.”


Friday, December 16, 2011

the epistemological limits of certain porous borders

God is talking to me. He’s using Geico television commercials. It seems he is not a particle, but all particles. Sub-atomic or not. Heavy or weightless. It’s more than a matter of matter. I know. God talks to me.

God appears to me as the spokesman in Geico commercials. I mean, come on, think about it: if God were going to go to all the trouble of coming on down to earth and taking on the form of a man, well, let’s just say he could’ve chosen a lot worse. The hair alone is enough. When he squints and asks that rhetorical question about saving money on car insurance, well, he’s really making that gesture just for my sake. There’s something hidden there, something he’s intimating just for me, a slight tic that’s so abstract and condensed in a single motion that only I’d notice it. Sometimes I don’t understand what he’s trying to say, and (I’m ashamed to admit) I grow angry with God. I wish that he’d not be so ambiguous and indirect, that he’d just come out with it already and tell me what’s what. But, I know, with patience I shall learn deeper meanings, and that if it were easy to get messages from God, well, everybody’d be doing it. No. I’m special. I’ve been chosen for a reason. I must concentrate and decipher deeper understandings in the context of God’s word. “Could switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance?” Oh lord, you speak in such mysterious ways. I pray that faith will sustain me long enough to distill the essence from these things.

I maintain humbleness at all times. Saltines and tap water sustain me during the darkest hours. More than anything I wish to be less selfish, to accrue humility in the vast stocking of my soul as I flip through the channels of my Samsung 42-Inch High Definition Plasma TV. The commercials, they come and go. I maintain diligence, not letting the regularly scheduled programming interrupt my quest. I am waiting for a sign.

God speaks through a medium that will disguise him easily (nobody’d expect God to be making TV appearances) yet allow him to reach his “audience” (i.e., me) in the most accessible of ways. You see? It makes sense. I understand these things.

Reaching out, or at least attempting to, I get on my knees before the TV. The warm glow is comforting and soft. I close my eyes. I pray so hard it’s like my head will burst. Suffused with a steadfast belief that I am okay, that all is right with the world, that all is happening as it should, I send my love through the neon-lamp cells and phosphors, into the coaxial cables and optical fiber light pulses, away into the dark unknowns of the heavens. God answers my questions with a sly raise of his eyebrow, and I know that all is well. My sweat glistens, and I am healed, not forsaken, in the TV’s warm glow.

Curbing my emotional landscape, making amends for wrongs I’ve been too scared to make right, I take into consideration some pertinent questions: “Does Johnny Daniels play a mean fiddle? Does a 10-pound bag of flour make a really big biscuit? Was Abe Lincoln honest? Is having a snowball fight with Randy Johnson a bad idea? Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?” These are things that require deep, uninterrupted contemplation. I hit the mute button and stare into the HiDef pixels, searching for a deeper meaning, and all becomes a coagulated blur, and I am calm and content. My mind goes blank. I feel the lord streaming through me like ultraviolet photons. He is loving as he buffers and adjusts saturation levels. It is my duty to understand his recondite ways. I am blessed to be alive, spiriting along this particular journey that allows me a chance to comprehend the lord’s mysterious ways. For this I give thanks.

Dark days are upon us. Oh woe is me. My concentration is waning. I am shackled to distractions. Every flicker is a new direction to head in, a new essence to partake in. I fear that God has chosen a faulty vessel in me. His displeasure is palpable. The Geico spokesman leers at me. His disappointment is tangible. Did the cavemen really invent fire? Should I be listening between Foghorn Leghorn’s lines? Bafflement overcomes me. I lie awake at night, my mind replete with abstruse questions. Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R? Christ. There really are no easy answers, I must confess. And, without doubt, I am struggling to keep my weary head from the deep emptiness of the great abyss. My plight is my own and everybody’s.

‘Be steadfast in your convictions.’ That’s what I keep telling myself. I whisper it below the TV’s hum. A mantra in the ecru light. Something that gives me courage and conviction. ‘Certainly, woodchucks will keep chucking wood. And former drill sergeants do make terrible therapists.’ I have come to count on these small, good truths.

Does God want me to do unto others as I would have done to me? Perhaps. But I’m beginning to lean more towards the idea that God is not only unknowable, but that God does not even want to be known. Through the slick good looks of that fancy-pants Geico spokesperson, God is merely telling me to zip it and mind my own business. I remain awed, even while grasping dreams of the Higgs boson to my bosom, finally hoping for explanations as to why treasures on this earth must have mass, while being miffed still by the inner workings of the universe, or God, as if those weren’t one in the same.

Oh lord God, how I want to see the light. Hallowed be your cathodic filaments and rasterized image, holy your smooth skin and hair anointed with pomade. Speak to me in your rich velvety timbre. I am baptized beneath the babbling brook of your leering charm, your mesmerizing head cocks, your Rod-Serling poses and your dramatic pauses. Seeing doesn’t have to be believing. Just as an “are” or a “was” toboggans into a “because” as the massless photons go about their electromagnetic business as usual, never spun but always spinning, lost in the tepid water of the world’s great bathtub. I shall scream your message from the mountaintops, or maybe just whisper it from the roof of a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot, while kneeling (of course) with hands clasped and head bowed near the sun-baked slate: “Insure thyself against calamity. The time is upon us. Do not be defined merely but what you like. Click thy cursor on life’s sunnier side, for now, and blow out the candles of somebody else’s birthday cake. Yes is always the answer. Yes. Yes. Rich is the way. Yes. And, well, yes to all that too.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the lives of trainmen and stripteasers and telephone clerks

same as this

was hard

enough to help

lost lower too

to step to

suspected one as

only’s or

and composed two

as bad’s timing


a jury’s gaze

not paired but

stitched to more’s many

grandly bashful

if not carries a want’s still

or inexpert’s will

a hold bars all takers

different as that

vanished to stampless envelopes

honed with varying

but this try gives

an all’s heavier side

to let the least moment’s vast tug

get in the way


sidelined with concern

rationing tears

even bustards turn shy

empty and Glocked

sanctioned to be sad

or licked into being accidental

it wearies truth into charm

and kicks over loss’s harm

if lasting crumbles to go

where a crash suffices

to never know

the cold

of a long’s hurry

that’s run away

into being

a no

something catchy

I am not Jay Gatsby. I am great, though. Don’t want to argue about that. I’m just not Mr. Gatsby. That’s what I want to be clear about. Am I Mr. Magoo? That’s another matter, and, if you can suppress your urge to compile gossip for your already replete stores of it, I’d rather not delve into those (or, as it were, these) things at the moment. So, so, so, so. Bear with me. Please. I implore you. It’ll be worth it. Promise.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was at my door the other day. He was shaking his head already when I answered. I opened the door, and I saw Mr. McDowell standing there shaking his head, holding his guitar out like a rifle. He wasn’t smiling. He sang, “Sir, my sir, well, you know, I’m not holding your baby’s hand tonight. Not tonight.” I invited him in. And he came into my home.

The wind was magic. It stripped everything bare. Howling was its business, outside. Not inside where Mr. McDowell and I were lounging. Maybe we were having tea. What’s the big deal about that, huh? I’m a credit-card-carrying citizen. I do my part. What’s it to you?

Sorry. That was unacceptable.

The wind defines things, shapes them, adds its own mindset to it all. These dusky days belong to the wind; we only borrow them with scuttling thoughts. It is parlous to do otherwise. Be gentle with me. I am not an astronaut, and, also, my front lawn is the greenest around.

Mr. McDowell and I lounged around and spoke to each other.

“Is it the first today?”

“No, it’s the last.”

“Very well. I am inclined to believe in such things. Things like this, or that.”

“Could I refer to you as Freddy Boy?”


“About almost right now.”


“We adapt to things, like ourselves, as we age, and we grow into our bodies as we once grew out of a younger man’s clothes. Do you find this to be the case, Freddy Boy?”

“You mean as to say well it’s a case of my hands getting the shakes so bad that I can’t hold my coffee a-steady without spilling much more than a few drops?”

“I mean what I mean, on average. And it’s a mean that’s not angry a bit. That’s it.”

“Well, I figure I reckon it’ll leave me grappling with cuddled circumstances, fretless strums, and my head’s still along for the ride. Time grows wild inside of me. Time. Time. Time. Shit. I could forswear it all, but I ain’t got that kind of mouth on me. Not anymore. Being older doesn’t just creep up, sidle you like a stuffed mouth, swerve blankly about your footsteps, nipping at your heels. No. It’s a beggar washed of his tears, ragged with surprising jolts of what you were and what you’ll never be. My memories are panhandled to the nearest unworthy taker. Time to skedaddle away from it all.”


“Nah. Makes my tongue bitter.”

“Speaking of which…”


“Oh, well, nothing. Stuff your shirt. Oh. Well. Care to sing?”

“Ah. Ha! Sure as Shinola. Uh huh. I’m goin’ a-ways darlin’. Honey, don’t you wanna go? Wash. Wash. Wash my trouble down, down, down. I knows my baby, and she surely don’t go treatin’ me a-alright. Hardly rest ‘til I shake, shake, shake ‘em on down. Uh huh.”

“Do you…do you…?”


“Wait. But, do you, believe in…me?”

“For sure I surely do.”

“I’m spying on myself.”

“Death sleeps above the covers.”

“We live slow and die old.”

We drank tea. We lounged. We watched pigeons choose a mate. Freddy Boy laid his burden down. It looked rather like egg foo young on the copper tiles of my floor. We grew old faster with each passing moment.

Over the next hill some church bells tolled. Through my partially opened parlor window we watched a doorman in the building across the street swat at flies. A TV was on in somebody’s living room in that building, and we both squinted at it, trying to decipher the flickering, soundless images emanating from it through the fritted glass. We didn’t listen to anything except our own personal racket.

“I guess I’ll always be just a bored teenager in love, at heart.”

“Does that sum us up?”

“Particularly yours.”

“My what?”

“Your yours, of course. Do I got to speak-and-spell it out for you?”

“A scholar of paleography once pointed me in an ancient direction towards the current events of my consciousness. This, my friendly enemy, is an acquired distaste, and you are missing out on my more monkeyish behavior when you slide yourself beneath the layers of my understanding. Get it?”

“What’s mine is…something, I guess.”

“Wait. Did you mean, perhaps, something-dash-something?”

“No dash required. It’s not like a one-horse open sleigh at all. Feels just like the second time, the very second time.”

“Sure. Sure. Tell me something you know…or don’t know. Just tell me something.”

“Well. Get this. This one night, well, I needed a drink. I don’t mean needed. I mean wanted. I mean had. I mean went to the bar a few blocks down the hill and had a beer. I mean scotch. I had a small glass of scotch, neat. I drank the scotch fast. I was not the only person in the bar. I was sitting at the bar. I wasn’t mingling. I had started off needing a drink, and now I had a drink, and now I was drinking the drink. I was not drunk. I was fully capable of getting up and leaving on my own. I am not a drunk. I sometimes have a hard time standing. I fall often. I get these dizzy spells. I need a drink sometimes.”

“When one is under-slept one often reverts to beginning all one’s thoughts with that good old first-person singular pronoun: I.”

“Shit on that. Shit. Poop. Shit. Can’t they invent a pill to replace sleep? You’d just take a pill and it’d feel like you’ve had a good night’s rest. Why haven’t they come up with that yet? We’d all be so much more damn productive.”

A willow tree brushed lightly against the windowpane. It made me think of a feather duster being mistreated, the barbules worn-out, the former ostrich plumage torn and sad. The sound was harsh and unforgiving against the glass.

“There are no more somber cities. Places get devaluated. Then rents hike up. Then neon blisters the pavement. Then we strive to be ordinary. Then we parry and thrust with chopsticks. All that’s left is a curtailed mushiness that does much less than compensate us for living the lives that we’re told we should be living. Gosh God, I’d love to get my grubby mitts on some earthquake pills.”

“Another Hopalong Casualty. Hop, hop, hop a long. Rather…casually, getting the short end of the broadsword.”

“Think about it. Modern dispositions tend not to dwell on the curious cases of hats mistaken for hats. And husbands abound. We tell ourselves, ‘Be nice. Just be nice.’ But being curious, well, we go shit-silly with vacillation. We reclaim certain landscapes just to make them more our own, to bend them to our ends-- what seems necessary and unavoidable at the time.”

“Drink more hooch.”

“No way, my fine sir. It’s all pruno to me.”

“White lightning?”

“Not in the sweetest of senses could I lead this bewildered, occasional, that’s-all-my-fault, unsteady burp of a guy to the hunches and happenstances of the almost-great whisky-made-me-drunk beyond. Goddamn, you know, it’s obdacious! Isn’t it?”

“If it ain’t, it’ll do ‘til the real thing shows up.”

“I’m sure there are softer tones we can live through in the meanness of this season.”

Outside the trees were all whining about their predicament: twitching and fluttering on towards death. It seemed, if you looked hard enough, as if a few of them were giving us The Finger. I envied their lost leaves. I’m not sure how Mr. McDowell felt about it. He flapped his lips and almost hummed Come All Ye Faithful, but not quite.

Look, I am not joyful. I am not triumphant. I am merely working on a strategy to outwit the most derisive ganzfeld experiments of our times. Don’t look for me sleeping on the lawn. Don’t try to catch me stepping out for a smoke, clinking glasses with armies of idiots, or spatula-ing flies in the kitchen. I’m off the clock. It’s all come down to get-it-while-you-can’t productivity, and my mind wanders. The wind is steam heat.

“What would you sing for me if you were going to sing something for me?”

“Whiskey and water and sleeping pills.”

“Don’t be careless to care too much.”

“Man, just a thimbleful of rum will make the sorrows go on and haunt away some-a-where’s else. Any old-a-where.”

“A scratchy tune to sleep with for a while.”

“She’s my 44th Street baby. She’s my hokey-pokey gal.”

We talked on and on while the trees trembled and quaked, almost annihilated by the ways of wind. Pity was dispensed to mankind, busily.

“I can’t go to funerals no more. I’ll get a wild case of the giggles. Almost anything will set me off. The eulogist’s accent, the strange shape of a mourner's face. I don’t know. A parasol opening. Really just nothing. And then it’s hide-the-smile time, hand-over-mouth, turn away, and all the likes and dislikes of it all. Nervous? Jittery? That kind of a thing? Maybe I’m just…shit. I don’t even pretend to have an idea about any of it.”

“Shoot. Golf dag-it! That’s what I’d say to it. ”

“Sure. Sure. Yessiree! Sure. Yep. Ah! Ha! To all ye gathered, beloved or no, here or below, well, sheet! I run my business out of a horse stable.”


“Well, buffalo my bill. I’m off to nothing. It’s…strange. You see, there’s a sloppy woman who comes into my store with asshole eyes and a bloodthirsty wince about her. She traps pigeons and sells them for meat to the soup kitchens. She makes me cry. Every time I see her, shit, it’s the waterworks.”

“Confusion’s the new sanity.”

At this point in our tête-à-tête, Mr. McDowell stood up. He pulled his guitar up like sagging pants over his belly, and he began to sing: “red’s the new read, better than rad, more awful than harpsichord scales, we are dashed off and rude, and our first kisses make everybody puke, there’s a typewriter next to a whisky bottle, there’s a hole in our tugboat, best’s the mess we made in this or what’s reading aloud, feet resting on a lobster-claw balloon, on a couch longer than the night, and a bus ride that’s always too close away, felled to drown, and we don’t need cigarettes, and we don’t need strangers, we’ve got the wind when it’s warm, we’ve got lots left in the tank, we’ve got trains, very’s the new how, almost as good as a wish that doesn’t make the cut, never cool, and always off cue, we’re training to take a year or two off, we’re helpless in our likes, but pleases don’t bother us, not as much as they should, gosh goes for dang’s jugular, and the seagulls play serious, for a west of no east that secures all the wrongs of what’s left of me and you.”

The sun wavered in its playful scouring of the horizon for a moment. I cracked my toes one by one.

There was nothing else left to do or say. I began to wish for the mailman’s arrival. The complexities of my situation were drab and ordinary.

I am not Jay Gatsby. I believe in red lights, the humdrum past that hour by hour climbs behind us. It catches us now, and that’s what counts--yesterday we walked slower, huddled inside ourselves less…And on numerous stuffy evenings--

So I silently frown, back float with the riptide, dying onward once out of the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

birmingham has gone to motors again

The piano player in here is mysterious, and through the windows I can see the ocean. Everybody’s jotting. Notes are being taken, along with photographs of small children and animals. The ceiling’s creased with seams of meringue. I can discern the taste of jellybeans through the atmosphere, which is thick with card tricks and deep-fried tarantulas. Disfavor brooms the dust of staying put. Like weeds, my temper grows wild when left untended. The piano player is on to me. I try to daydream of voluptuous catkins getting screwed by the wind.

There goes another swiping scrawl of my hand, scribbling something about concrete gardens, outward of its own volition now, things beyond my reach, mud slopped between layers of hard work, and I’m slouching to stay as hidden as possible. This situation is becoming humdrum. My ears are all eyes.

Every fold is strumming. Paper is recherché. The waiters walk away from orders as records get fixed instead of broken. Be me. It’s not that boring or easy. Even at night it’s not like this: “Have at it all, moon! Hunch over that range of skyscrapers to the east. Peek away!” It’s not like that at all. Some things will boom before the light of day blues the crest of rage from them. Crashing? That takes the pie. Before I am done here, or after, the piano player will get what he’s got coming. Maybe I will whisper just soft enough so he can’t hear, “Roll before the bones break, buddy.”

Brightness, flooding in with sharp edges, steadies me. The windows are clean. All is clear. The ocean laps the hard sand. I am mushy at worst. Be kind. The piano player has taken a short break. Disruptions will make do. I will make them make do. Who plays the piano when the piano player has gone away? I am planked and deconstructed hourly, but am only paid per swindle. Nobody dwells in exceptions through clear-cuts like this, like mine, like a diaphanous swig of phosphorescence. Yes, I am bubbled so I can quietly scream, “Effervesce!” while being simultaneously jealous of the piano player and myself. But that’s not my conundrum to fritter away.

Lord, won’t you buy me a Lincoln Continental. Oh, but I am crude. Oh. Oh, and there goes a harmony scrubbed pure; it halts still as salt on the tabletop. I’m close to positive it’ll be negative for the salubrity of my thoughts. At least until the piano music continues.

Don’t spot the piano player. Let him dawdle without noticing it. You know what? He’s about as well-adjusted as a vacuum’s nozzle attachment. ‘Eyes on the consolation prize,’ is the warning I give. ‘Gas it when you’ve had enough.’ I know. Pray with me: “Thomas Bernhard was a good old pal of mine a way back when before it was correct to be incorrect.” Now, that’s worse if not better, yes?

The piano player strives. He will not be served. Not plattered. Not stuffed or suppered on. I think, ‘Dexterity mashed with celerity is his game.’ I am hunched, sitting at this table, over my paper, letting my hand scratch out its business. The piano player has magnificent hands. Me? No. Mine do not glide effortlessly over the ebony and ivory, plashing a tad here, smooth, fluent, grand, marvelously adroit, almost a liquid grace to it all. No. My own paws, like talons a tad, are better for clubbing, cracking ribs, lickety-splitting, handling crotchety levers, scaring kids, oafing gestures, milking ibex, and pulling triggers. The piano player knows the score. Nobody draws conclusions like me. But for now, I am keeping the paper covered. My elbows are on the table.

While the piano player was gone I made up a song: “Claw, claw, claw out my eyes, for me. They are not gauzy with you anymore, no more. So do me a solid, and claw, claw, claw away.” I am scraped. Another note: make landfills more exciting. Are you (me) cruel? Will yesterday’s makeup cover another folky disaster? Well’s well. These here fleas that are too lazy to crawl emote with such stuff as, “Give me misery or give me life! Ah, banisters they crumble, and we’ve got salt to shake; we’ve got sand between our toes; we take dream-vitamins crushed in dog-food souls.” The song’s distant, pitched to go, and I will cower here over my paper, sit at this table, here, and I will know the form my enemies take before I even start humming.

At another table, one not far from my own (at mine I am the only one who sits), are seated three ladies. They are dressed in the checkered red and black of lumberjacks-- two in ankle-length plaid dresses, one in a plaid dress shirt and jeans-- and are drinking tea while munching on graham crackers. The one in jeans (and I can tell this) wants to ask quite loudly, “Would somebody critique pure reason for me?” But she doesn’t. She merely munches on crackers and sips tea while rocking slightly in a diagonal pattern from the shorter back left leg to the longer front right leg of her unbalanced chair. I want to awaken her from her dogmatic slumbers by telling her things like, “It is quite dangerous being a pedestrian out there on the streets in these modern times. You could be creamed to a pulp by any number of careering motorized vehicles.” I am living a food-stamped life quashed by military-style forces who surround my ambitions with chewed gum. But, in the end, I believe the piano player will cure us of our a posteriori ways. That is what he is for.

Here is another is: a stint of reducing barely visible moments to their stripped-down essence, almost soundless too, and I get the theme song from MASH stuck in my head. I lie to myself that my nose isn’t growing as I age. Breathing, for now, keeps me steady. Enemies? Unknown. Friends? Dashing. Always dashing. There are, you see, dull knives that slash jaggedly at rational forms of knowledge (some gained, some released), and rip janky holes through my inferences of small matters. Nobody plays nice around these parts. The goodness of one’s actions cannot be measured out in coffee spoons. Act slow. Think quickly. Operating on stun is stalling what’s inevitable. There is not room enough here (in this is) to shake a fist at. The eagle has lost its sight.

The ocean beyond the window’s plate glass is not calling me. The tables are turning out to be used against my better operational modes. I am out of opinions, sided out, breached and disquieted. My sheet of paper has no room left. Gazes are looking the other way. Scuttled whispers come coughing, bargains galore, through diacritical perceptions of who is left to ponder what goes on inside this dusty head of mine, murmuring such things as, “Professionals only, boys. We write our own tickets to hell. Amateur hour is expired. Come on. It’s later than now. Get a move on. We play in borrowed time, only.”

The piano player is gunning for me. A breach of steam-powered etiquette. But I won’t laugh first. It’s better to be mashed by a delicate frustration than be the cheek-turner of the party. Shoot first. That’s a heavy bargain. To shoot last would be preferred.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mighty Mouse Marooned After The Hesperus Has Wrecked

Hello my cordial darling. It was a has of many rains since the streets soaked away with us. None of me is stolen now. Opening, more likely as closed. Yes. About the birds too, and how summers fell to verbingly contest right’s popularity in wrong’s nouned contest results, and how now cape-less mice and their once pure-of-heart companions scamper and zigzag from crumb to crumb instead of taking flight, leaving to lose the night, footed out to ill situations, never about just whose who shirks this informal duty, yes, pearled too. There it was not heard of and said just differently the same. More about news is that here we have those cloudy times of drip without drop, those clearer-skyed miseries that pull the plush of one nearer from the far reaches of gathering storms. The us of you flashbulbs until it no longer lights my days, as weeping longs for its own demise, far and here, as you-- of the tidier sort-- know almost well. Cursed? Cerealed? Oh no. Brigaded upon doughnut-less seas. Not that showers do any of their own gardening. A mime’s swoop (hard to call it a phrase) portends other coats, or coasts, marbled or smeared. Am I thinking of honey congealing near a mug’s bottom, awaiting the steaming-hot poured lather of brandied water? Am I false of head? Hearts would tell less. I know. I am weak in these scales of socially acceptable failings (though my knees are true and steady). Don’t skin your happiness. Don’t depend on raisins. It is good grape time, in the city. Fields of copper. Cocktails for one. We are flowered and rivering. Tighten the hold we had on you, the me of it, the us who split town late. And yes, stay out of bed all night, short on kinder over-it-alls than those that held our nightmares for ransom in a pickle jar, or was it olives? I’m misty with peanuts. My scalp is oiled by snakes. Slack is the only cut that my will doesn’t desire. Far out done, if it were a was, a how, a grumbling backdoor parlor mood, if it were snoozed with buttoning up the best of being down-- worse though, if class could count itself. (Ha!) I am not jimmied to landfills (at the moment), and I regard strangered looms as sunk islands I once deserted from this here-to-there perspective. A little on the masculine side headed in a feminine direction, you shook it all out, and down we rose. (This, of course, is, and never was, of course, a holdup.) Welded will do. It will smooth you, and we take it, right as road maps. Crueler motes, I’ve never lost, gently stilling their own shushed hurt, dusted. Creatures? I’ve got my own just for a habit, for a something that does or does not-- starring a start’s numb hush, as it weren’t. Bowed to floor me with a sun-flecked address. Sure. Sure, that’s what the slickered suit & ties do, here without the windy to pull or tug around, skylined through paraded horizons. East becomes mowed. West is doom. North shrinks from the south. A moon’s ring’s gold is lashed to to-morrow’s masthead. The fog-bell’s distance is untolling. We are our own tidy, handheld regard. Land the o’er of music in a fill of me-first/you-never. Placard my sentiments to no ends, to no known now. And, and, and, and, yes, cart off without it tagging along. A circle wrought with too few many-wayed destinations. Also, there is an Absalom in my pea soup.

Friday, October 14, 2011

the smell of purple (an exercise in stenography)

(The meeting of fledging millionaires was taking place at precisely 9:34 am in the Difficult room of the Easy Does It Palace. No sabotage was attempted. A reclusive mourning dove took a shower in the rain while perched on the palace’s outer bronze gate. The inner bronze gate was bird free.)

Any day now. Any day now.

We run through the gazes of whole-milk variances. Stuck in alto, ruined through a cappella, adducing what we’re likely to find in copper skillets-- nothing cooks, though-- here whiter than sky. "Have at it."

You tell me, “Running is rampant.”

I think, ‘We, we, we.”

In this similar spot of telling, we both go for rich, undulating in the least fashionable way. Go about your playfulness. With treaties to never sign, differences resigned to be the same, we slurp sunflower juice from lichenous mugs.

“Leave me together.” There. You left it never rolled and always rocking. Laterally, there’s something to stay right for a while. “Cussed out.” Yes. There was that, too, as well as also. “Bend down the branches, baby.” It’s singing. It’s that. It’s groveling for a stretch. “‘Able to’ is the most of ‘cannot’ in otherwise fair foul play.” Okay. Lay it on me, bumpkin. That’s a gleam without a shine, a shine without a sword to fight with, a lake with no pines, a river raft gone down, down, gone. Same’s a shiver. Send it back, back, back; “No!” Back.

Go brown. Go Septemberish. Bids start at nickel and ten.

Most months then. More years for a while.

Visiting graveyards, graves too, without spitting. All fessed up. Go around. Get without it. An opening, and there, to look, to see through, into, about, as it gets early, and leaving is scrawled in the dead leaves.

Lured and liked, that’s us. Grown down? Dressed five to nine, only, so to not say, it gets rather easy to implement, sans a face slap, what’s mattered more than this, or less than that. All that remains is a ton of bad mints to swing stringless racquets at, pine-needle tea stains on the place mats, and delirious cut-less veal squirming for attention among the used coffee grounds. Riding less than easy, harder than planned past.

All leftovers should be consumed within 39 days and nights of first attempt at consumption.

We are, “warped and hazard free.” Our, “you know,” is nothing to get caught down in, sappy about, or afflicted with like mice trained to wear dentures without ever drooling. “Pat me on the front.” That’ll be just fine. “Cram!” I mean, “Scram!” That’s all.

They learned to hover well, those gnats, and, “More or less where or when that came from or went to,” was turned to mush before any of us here or there caught wind of it. “Messy obtains crucial oversight.” That’s none of what she wrote, most of what she didn’t say, and about a third of what’s happening right about then. “Now!” We can no longer live without toothpicks.

Famous for being unknown, leveling on to glib’s demeanor-- with a proud penchant for banana-happy Romeos, the licked aftertaste of stamps, and a drifter’s gumption for noncommittal silence-- the more obtainable among the seated rose to, “speak below a whisper. Content, aren’t our minions of faithless saddened boos?” Watery nosed, and then, “You bossed around those booing ones, and now?” Intermittent eternity puts on its gloves in the springy fall of deuterium monoxide and spars with drop-dead medium-classy hearts while under the influence of a gallon jug of table wine. “There’s a low-'unlevel'-salary sort of paycheck spasm for you. But who needs signs of dollars when the yen to ache’s being sold off for less than inspiration’s transitional paradox?” Above? “We’re still not hungry.” In medias res. Ab ovo. Post tenebras lux. It’s an adding to subtract what’s left of multiple divisions that never equal a fair share. “Score!” We’ve tasted worse: “Better?” There’s a catch without a number assigned to it yet.

Warnings are butterflies.

“There’s a vehemence to your conjecture, sir. I, and, I, and, I, and,” ahem, “am not so sure without it.”

“Better yet?” It’s grainy in the afterthought of life.

“Pancakes for dinner? Again?”

“Yes was the first no.”

I do; I do. “Then,” I don’t or won’t. “Then?” I will or should or cannot, too.

“A bag for your garbage, Miss.”

“That is Miss S, to you.”

“Trees have better things to do than make money.”

Taking care of steel prices, contingency plans for concrete lobbying that was taking the place of bridge building for the winter, boats taking cruises in circles-- “Taking leaves options given towards staying.” Put it up, wrecked but not ruined: an institution for intuition, hardly.

“We are not insensate rubber blocks,” although paying ill, “to traffic through and about until there’s a revision to the light-refraction dynamics of handouts in the plausibility of estimating today’s returns staying put.” No defense to ever rest. “Go build idea machines, dissect normality into display-case dreams, and,” after, after, “get a stay off it!”

It never gets dark or cold enough. The ground plays alive. Wallop around in the sty of it all long enough and the stench becomes pleasant and reassuring. A voice isn’t enough without music to believe in it. “Enough!” Sure.

Raw creeps into morning’s blush. “I am hunching.” Bow-tie the thieves. Nobody recognizes Hunchers. “We’ve, here, now, got to,” you know, “believe in creeps.” The laundry is trash. “Candles are waxing from chandeliers, and we’ll go under, knocked keister-first into unfortunate wealth, and,” drip, drip, drip, “there’ll be no new tax on refinement or never-sundered wear.”

Inspiration’s plugs are bent by buzzing television the color of dead sky. Channels are staying the same. “And now to trace, heavenly, with due process, the course back to the irregularities of scheduled programming…”

Stay oblivious. Smell the Statue of Liberty’s armpit and see if despair will take care of the rest. Remain neutral. Raise the rent on longing. It is well to keep secret the hooded croaks of your desire.

“Take it all off!”


Say, “yes,” to deplorable options. More bankrupt fruit exists. “Candy?” Deceitful. “Rubric gets the job,” done.

Now’s enough.

Friday, October 7, 2011

anxiously awaiting the return of topcoat weather

a: Look at that.

b: Bonsai tree.

a: Up on the balcony.

b: Yep. Put on the ledge.

a: Way up high. Twenty stories?

b: About that.

a: Damn high up there. Different weather at that altitude.

b: Yep. Maybe some atypical condensation. Good for the tree.

a: Keep it wet. Like a mist. A spray.

b: Sure. Gotta keep them trees moist so they don’t dry out and die on you.

a: That guy’s got it pretty good up there, huh?

b: Could be a lot worse for him.

a: He’s way the fuck up there. Nosebleed stuff.

b: Yeah. Up there like that. Imagine moving in.

a: Hauling all that furniture up to that deluxe apartment in the sky.

b: But I’m sure there’s an elevator.

a: That’d help. Still. Hell of a move. Not for pansies.

b: Hire movers. They’ll do all the sweaty shit.

a: Maybe this guy, maybe he goes out there on his balcony late at night. Maybe he sits there and smokes and looks at his bonsai tree, looks at his view. Must be quite a view.

b: Yep. Lots to see. All those lights. Gold and yellow and white. The bridge. The bay. The sky. The whole dreaming immensity of it all. Traffic puttering away down there between the houses. Headlamp light. Brake lights. Red and white. Buildings bruising the horizon.

a: Plush. That life. Not too shabby of a way to be doing your living.

b: Yep. That guy probably ain’t got it too bad.

a: Not like us.

b: Nope. Not like us.

a: Look at us.

b: Us?

a: Yeah. What do we do?

b: We stand and talk.

a: We shiver in the cold. We smoke cigarettes down to the filter.

b: We’re nubbers.

a: Yup. Always got a nub between our fingers. Holding our shoulders.

b: Freezing in the wind. Breathing so you can see it.

a: Lots of time he’s got up there.

b: Up there all he’s got is time.

a: Down here all we’ve got is class struggles.

b: Looking Classes.

a: Those?

b: Sure. Like when you see a girl, and you’re not too scared to talk to her because you think she’s in a lower Looking Class than you.

a: Looking Class. Like that.

b: You’re above her. She should be thankful.

a: She should be down on her knees.

b: Intimidated by your dashing charm and good looks.

a: A man she’d never imagined would ever talk to the likes of her.

b: Yep. You can take charge. Don’t got to put yourself out there too much. Not much risk. Just a toe tap.

a: But if she doesn’t bite?

b: Well. Then. Yep. That’s bad. That’s the worst.

a: She’s rejecting me?

b: Yep.

a: Shit. She should be grateful.

b: Down on her knees.

a: I’m the one should be doing the rejecting.

b: Damn straight.

a: I’m the one slumming it.

b: Who does she think she is?

a: She’s nobody.

b: Girls can be so damn picky.

a: They’ve got their sights set. They know what they want.

b: But do we?

a: No. We don’t know shit about what they like.

b: We know what we like.

a: Of course. Everybody knows what we like. That’s easy.

b: They know what we’re buying.

a: But what they’re shopping for?

b: Nada.

a: One of life’s great mysteries.

b: Yep.

a: We stand and shiver. We blow smoke.

b: We get tired of ourselves. We chuck cigarette butts at pigeons.

a: This is living.

b: Yup.

a: Flick the glowing orange ends, make tiny sparks fly, pass the time.

b: I don’t want much.

a: Don’t get much.

b: It’s all we’ve got, though. And you gotta admit, it’s flowery sometimes. Sometimes it’s gold.

a: Damn straight. Weather the bad to bathe in the good.

b: Yep. Life’s a goddamn miracle. Live it like you mean it.

a: Seriously, play for fun.

b: The rain comes and goes, and for sure, yeah, the cold wind blows from time to time, but we’re here, stuck in the middle of it all, and we’ve got less, sure. But, shit, we’ve got more too, right?

a: Yep. More’s more.

b: What about that guy? That guy way up there with his bonsai tree?

a: That guy? He’s got his hard times too.

b: Rough stuff, now and again.

a: Sure. Maybe his dog died last February. His mommy might’ve beat him up when he was a toddler.

b: Some girl done him wrong.

a: Could be. What do we know?

b: We’re just a couple of nubbers standing around in the cold, holding our shoulders, blowing our nose. Who are we?

a: Working stiffs. Plebs without much chance. Just some jimmies on a pile of ice cream.

b: But the ice cream’s tasty. It’s got a good chance, right?

a: The ice cream? It’ll do okay. It’ll be alright.

b: Look at that thing.

a: Bonsai?

b: Yep. So high up there. It’s doing fine. It’s making it.

a: It’s scraping things together as best it can. Not too shabby, up there.

b: I bet.

a: Catching colds and throwing out yesterday’s news.

b: Pissing underneath a sign that says, “I ain’t got no name.”

a: Shit. More like, I ain’t got a dime.

b: My woman. My woman. Yep. She sure as hell won’t leave me none alone.

a: No more. No more. Nope. Never been so all alone.

b: My song’s all I got left.

a: Broken down hungry 5,000 miles from home.

b: Yep. We’ve got the cockroach-black sky at night. We’ve got knees to pray on. We’ve got guns we’ll never shoot. And then, well shit, our boat’s gone and sprung a leak.

a: The rats are jumping ship.

b: Should we too?

a: Nope. We’re here for the long haul.

b: Damn. It’s all we’ve got.

a: Yep. But that’s enough.

b: For a couple of nubbers like us.

a: Sure.

b: I get the shakes so bad sometimes.

a: It’s par for the course. It’s the residue from being alive like this, in this way, like we are.

b: Soap scum on the tiles gunking up the works of being me.

a: Yep. We all get jumpy here and there.

b: Scared and anxious. Waiting for something, you know? That feeling that something’s just around the corner. And you keep walking down these spiral stairs trying to get at it, but it’s never there.

a: Just close enough to be too far away.

b: But you can’t stop walking down, and you get farther than you’d like to be underground, way down there, and you keep thinking, ‘It’s just right there, right around the next bend,’ but it keeps not being there.

a: Chasing and never catching.

b: That’s life.

a: Always just an almost away from where you want to be.

b: And we dream of better days just up ahead.

a: Sure. Better times. We’re sure of it. Almost there. Any day now.

b: There are limits. These things are in the act of balancing, you know?

a: Maybe. I do and I don’t.

b: Maybe.

a: There was a time, you know, when I was wearing the same suit jacket every day.

b: I remember it. Yep.

a: It had a rip in the shoulder…

b: Uh huh.

a: and that rip kept ripping larger, and the lining was hanging on by a few threads. I’m not sure that there was anything magical about it, but it felt like it sometimes. Anyway, I was used to wearing it, and without it on I felt exposed and lackluster, like I wasn’t myself. So, there you have it. I wore the thing way past wearing out.

b: Everything’s got to wear out sometime. Can’t hold on forever.

a: The passing’s what all things must do.

b: Can’t grow a new now in a here that’s always gone, always changing into a then.

a: Wait. How big you think one of them trees can get?

b: Bonsai? Don’t know. Not too big, I’d figure. Always see them rather on the tiny side, you know?

a: Yep. Miniature trees. Like midgets. Wonder if any of them ever get really big, though. Like some mutant ones. Imagine, giant bonsai trees, a forest of them, like redwoods. That’d be something.

b: Sure would. Don’t reckon it too likely. There’s a good reason, probably, that they’re so small. That’s the way they do best.

a: Their best shot at making it in this cruel, cold world of ours.

b: Uh huh.

a: And us?

b: Two guys like us?

a: What’re we going to do?

b: Anxiously await the return of topcoat weather.

a: That’s what we’re made for. Enduring. Getting by. Sticking it out. We abide. We survive on other people’s scraps.

b: What they throw away.

a: Huddled here, scrapping our shoes back and forth on the sidewalk, spitting in the street, making it the only way we’ve got.

b: We know how to get through the days.

a: But the nights?

b: The nights? Well, that’s too much, even for a couple of nubbers like us.

a: Trolls sucking up air. Farming out our souls for the right to live the way we do, day to day, week to month to what he hope is another year. And then…

b: And then.

a: What’re you going to do? A guy like you or me? We’re stuck being ourselves.

b: But that guy, way up there with his bonsai tree, think he’s got a chance?

a: That guy? Hell. That guy’s got no chance. None at all.

b: He’s way up there.

a: Yep.

b: Above everybody else.

a: Sure.

b: And he’s looking down.

a: Right.

b: And he’s thinking that maybe, just maybe…

a: He’s giving it quite a bit of pondering.

b: It’s not worth it, all alone, up above it all like that.

a: Perhaps.

b: With that bonsai tree crumbling in the chill of winter wind, and his dead dog, or his woman who treats him bad, or the skylight in his ceiling that doesn’t quite give him a glimpse of god.

a: Could be.

b: And maybe being down here, in all the muck and hollering madness and free-for-all horseshit that makes up our daily lives, well, maybe it just starts to seem to him…

a: Yep. Down below’s where it’s at, and he’s long gone from it.

b: But he can’t get back down. It’s not so easy once you’ve climbed up so high like that. There’s only one way back, maybe, and it’s a much more direct route. Maybe he start’s to think he’s only got one way to go from there, and it’s a long, fast fall.

a: A falling through to the bottom. One final plunge.

b: A leap from faith to cold, hard fact.

a: Happen just like that. Like pigeon shit.

b: Maybe it comes to him that being up there’s worse, you know. It’s only like he’s making believe that he’s got it so good. The weather still arrives from the same place. Comfort only feels nice for so long.

a: And then it’s too much dessert and not enough meals.

b: Stuck.

a: Yep.

b: Up there. So far away. So tiny. So useless.

a: What’s the point? Right?

b: I don’t know. Maybe he’s just sad enough to be alright…to be…happy.

a: Fuck. I don’t even know what the hell to say to that.

b: Yeah. It’s freezing out here. Shit. I’m going back in.

a: Me too. What’re we doing freezing our asses off out here? They got the heater on in there. Shit.

b: Just a couple’a nubbers.

a: Shit. Not going to argue with that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

might as well live

My guess would be that he was from somewhere in Central or South America. I know. Real specific. But he’s going on, rather animatedly, about guitar playing. Acoustic. Electric. I don’t know. There was a substantial enough language barrier to reduce us to the use of simple nouns and verbs. A lot of, “What’s that?” and repeating things louder and slower. The cab’s not being driven at a comfortable clip. The guy’s weaving and taking his hands off the wheel, emphasizing things he’s saying with these wild semaphore-like gesticulations, and keeps making wrong turns, and this one time he like comes up real close to this bus that’s like taking up a lane and a half, and he is trying to squeeze by it, but can’t, you know, because of traffic going the other way. And so the bus stops to let people on and off, and this guy’s like right on the thing’s ass, and he starts going off, or on I guess, about buses and how much he hates them and how they take up so much space, and stuff like that. It’s weird. I don’t get it. Anyway. He keeps asking me for directions, and then keeps not taking them, and we’re going all nine ways from bananas over the city. I had my seat belt on. I wasn’t worried. So, he’s got this burly mustache, which is pretty greasy looking. A lot of spittle probably collected on it from his weather-not-the-news elocutions. Maybe it was sweat. Any why’s what, we’re bumbling along like that, his eyes not on the road as much as they should’ve been, and he’s jabbering about music, and he’s getting all excited about piano playing, and he’s like showing me how he plays, very soft or extremely violent-- “bang like percussion,” he says, while his hands are off the wheel for-- what I deem to be-- a dangerous amount of time. So, I’m like, ‘Whoa, fella. Get them hands back at two and ten there. Please.’ He’s mad for talking about music, this cabbie. I’m trying to keep my eyes peeled for turns he should be making, and at the same time trying to have this makeshift conversation with him, nodding and responding and having to pay much more than a bargain rate for attention to what he’s saying because his accent and bad English are making the guy a bit difficult to follow. Once in a while he’ll ask me where we’re going, and I keep telling him, and naming stuff that’s around there, and he seems to know where that “there” is that I’m talking about, but it’s hard to figure. So I’m like giving him street names to go down, but have no idea if he’s hip to any of it, or if he’s just going along and pretending so he can like keep rattling off about his love of music. All the wonderful while the meter’s ticking away, and the fare is growing mighty exorbitant, more rich than my blood’ll take, you know. It’s kind of awful and almost not, too. I like the guy’s excitement level. It’s nice that he’s so passionate about something. The wind of a god blown into him. Real-live enthusiasm on display there, I’ve got to admit. But it was late. I wanted to get home. Then again, feeling connected with others is something I strive for in this little here life I’m leading, and I didn’t want to be rude or asshole-ish in any way’s shape’s form to this guy. It’s a going without a saying, you know? Don’t want to yawn myself away. But I was tired. I was beat. I was horribly, annihilatedly bushed. Exhausted through skin and bone. And I wasn’t being discerning enough in my, “likes.” It was a hard time in New York town, as they say back in the good old world. I’m a casserole of doubt. I’m twice-baked potatoes upstairs. And this Latin-American music aficionado is screeching around corners at the last minute as I scream at him to, “Turn here! Here!” And he’s spitting sunflowers seeds out the window as he goes, and yammering on and emphatically gesturing all the way’s while, charging up hills and coasting down. It’s delirious. It’s wild. It’s a gas. Shit. Jumping Jack Flash, you know? Some of that and less. Well, I’m worried, sort of, but not overly. It’s like how I get in cabs, I guess. Relinquishing control to somebody else, just along for the ride, safe, somehow, and completely trusting. It’s weird. I wasn’t nervous at all. I just wanted him to get a move on it in the right direction, you know? Take me home. But maybe you can never really get back home, again. My instincts were fluttering with casual distress, but sealed inside this fantasy-realm intrepidness I knew no wrong that could become of us. It’s like I was afflicted with a bad case of predestination blues. Nothing mattered, and that was pretty A-okay as far as this here shredded envelope of misgivings was concerned. I pass myself off as courageous and bold most times, though in the thick of it I probably prefer to dart away rather than stick around for the nasty stuff. It works well enough when it works well. But I’m mindful of my own hazardous personality defects in a way that most don’t suspect or even care to know about. And why would they? It’s my own wax’s bees that keep the honey slow and sweet around these here hives. Any which-or-ever way, I’m doing quite a swell job of keeping the conversation working both ways, while also worrying my eyes out the windows for signs of familiarity, for streets we might head down to get to other streets that might sweep us a bit closer on to where it is that I really do want to be getting to. Really, in any situation where I find myself far away from where it is my heart wants to be, well, the later it gets the more I just seem to go along with whatever’s around me in hopes that I’ll be able to reconnoiter my way, at some point, back home. Maybe I don’t listen as well as I should to what’s important, to what’s coming my way from the colliding porous worlds of others. Have to admit that it’s not a task I was made very suitable for the doing of. And it’s part of my self-centered concern for seeming magnanimous that brings on these horripilating pangs of guilt I get for not being able to better care for lives outside of my own life. Seven times out of eleven I’ll be just waiting it all out, for it to be over, and then it’s, “Well, hope you’re enjoying your summer. Take care, buddy,” and all that mamba. Besides, who cares about this here guy me and his pathetic little life he’s trying to lead? Ruins of an underwater ghost town be damned. Lying’s often the best bet in these matters. Once in a lifetime meetings. It’ll all be over soon. That’s a that that’ll stick, right? Maybe. Maybe. Sun that won’t shine. Rain that’ll never pour. We’ve all met our beginning around such things. Cab rides. Phone calls late at night. Ring. Ring. Ring. Nothing. Turned more than around. Less? I know. It’s cradles of mistakes going sleepless before the alarm clock performs its subtle act of murder. We’ve got a handle on it, less or less’s more. Then you come to this juncture in the sway of things, this conceptualizing of rational how-do-you-doing. And it’s learn, craft a way, create your own exegesis and escape. It is what’s hardly lacking in all of us. Something that boils far from any stovetop burner. Openness doesn’t cost a penny, but I still catch myself fleeing from it as much as I can. The cabbie’s all flailing arms and air-instrumentation and gasping breath. I’m on to nothing. I’m dwindling. An open window’s blast of wind is crushing me, and I’m all lunched out, dinnered to dull, and in the meantime snacked all over and in. Mind’s low and away, in the dirt, stray thoughts rolling all the way to the backstop. Nothing seems as ugly as still being who I am, in the back of a cab, plodding along, small-talking and drying out to a bleached awareness, which is sated with the over-ripe boredom of daylight you’ve never had to struggle to see. A particle that’s lost its charge. I’m rainy in the head, wilted and gone too wrong for too long. It’s getting cold in the backseat with the window open, and I want him to close it, but he’s yapping so much now it’s hard for me to interject even the slightest suggestion of a phrase, or really do much more than nod in agreement and go, “Yeah. Totally. Right on,” or some other shield for him to bounce things off. It’s too much ado that I can’t get myself to get on with the doing of. On it goes. As on we all go, too, with it. Like, or just like, always. Vested interest is not taking. I’m up for grabs, my fears and nightmares right along side my hopes and dreams. Put the cream cheese on the bagel already. I’m through, you know? Well, comma comma comma. Shit. Usually I can get by between things, in the spaces nobody thinks about. I can grow slowly, without much notice, through accretion and well-timed attention-paying, to become the steeped rebuff to the slick quips of instant gratification’s spell. It’s not a talent I let on about. It’s dumb. I admit this to anybody who cares about such things. Getting over myself is something I’m constantly challenged to do, and failing seems the only option right about now-- now being in the cab, then, getting socked by wind and this windbag of a cabbie, lost and roaming, licked, spit out into the bathtub of the world, bumming around complacent and secluded from what I should be diving headfirst into. It’s cause's lostness, and I’m dumbed-down and skimmed over the gist of it. The color of gold is changing, imitating fallen leaves and the ragged coats of stray dogs. There’s an ever-increasing surcharge on what we amass, what we spend, what we hunt and gather into our homes. The skirmish of “me” with “you” and “them” with “us” is a battle without ground, and I’m wiped out on the shores of, “Well, you don’t say. How interesting, really.” It’s a bullshit exchange of bad for more bad, and we keep losing more while we think we’re winning it back. Ever the missed point, and I’m lonely as hell. Taking the backseat in the trek of my life, always just a bit behind whoever’s running the show, checking out the back of their head for signs of, well, I don’t know, love? It’s taking a gamble with whatever years you’ve got left, and the odds are never favorable. In fact, they stink to low heaven. Born into this, weaned on it, only to be eventually murdered by it in our sleep, and all the die-short-while we only stray closer to where it hurts us most to be. All of this striving around to be happy. All of this cursed luck and charmed negligence. Not owing even the slightest attention to what’s becoming of the factors that control the world we’re being trained to become accustom to existing in, with, for, or whatever else we can get by with not knowing or caring about. Just here for no reason, you know, and never rocking the boat with our rollicking on the boat. Soft footsteps on the padding that keeps us safely entertained away from boredom, cursed to be in want of distraction, taken care of, just drifting along without even the idea that there might be a different set of eyes to see all of this with, to know it in a way that’s not just, “Oh well, geez, that’s just the way it’s always been, so fuck it,” and in a way that’s not just without hope or concern, filled with apathy and nonchalant greed, but to be somehow craning your neck over the wreck and screaming, “I will not be just another mindless drone on the wide plains of what those around me keep for some absurd reason calling civilization. I will fight against the mechanics of this thing until the gears crack and the whole manipulative contraption blows higher than the sky.” That’s about what it comes up to. You get to choose what you notice, right? The things you notice become the things that make up who you are. A seriously long winding motherfuck of a road of thought and experience between it all, but it’s something to take care of, for, about. Maybe. Or, maybe it’s a combustible and spoiled half-ass solution to rectifying this powerless feeling you get, a warped state of being that’s dependent on outside forces for a way out of malaise and ennui that doesn’t involve any uncomfortable suffering or messy toil. The easy out instead of the hard in. Holy fuck. Shit. Everything, everything, every last goddamned everything is dead. Moses’d shit himself silly over it. Fuck. The cab ride? Fuck the cab ride. I made it home. I gave the guy a decent enough tip for jabbering my ear off while taking me on an unwanted sightseeing trip of wrong turns all over the fucking place. I made it home. I went inside. I didn’t go right to sleep. I stayed up for a while, staring at the walls, wondering what “being home” really meant, what it was or could be, and who it was that I was going to be for the rest of my life, and if it’d even matter. Plunk times plop goes windowing towards struggle’s leash divided by what might equal your future tense. Anyway. I’m an asshole. Don’t listen to me. I know not whereof I speak.

Monday, October 3, 2011

after my guitar is done gently weeping

Being a public figure takes its toll. I was shopped around on the banks, washed up, in a restoration of wearing whatever you will, in the time to do what does or does not take, busy reapplying nonexistence to younger standards, motivation lining the walls as factions of flower-wearers slimmed down behind the thickness of trees; and there was other higher documentation involved; and yes, conniving shields the eyes, I know, from what experience can’t bring itself to learn; but there, in less than a flash, of course, enlightenment comes with a cost-restrictive clause. The sky is borrowing grays from the cement rooftops and pink from the neon, and some buttery yellow swirls from the lit facades of grand mansions and somewhat less grand hotels. Looking up has left my toes stubbed too many times on these rock-strewn streets. Being a private person leaves one little room to maneuver past life’s wrecking ball; I tell my admirers (the ones who are left) that it gets less lonely all the time. Variations on themeless spectacles, honey-licked leaves fallen through my put-off air’s mush, and it’s like Betty Grable cutting the rug with Hermes Pan before the clinging arms of Coney Island break to cinnamon-strangled pie. I am parrot-lipped. Nobody supports the barking of dogs.

A list of ordinary things: My TV’s quit working, and I’ve quit cigarettes and booze. Music’s gone. The cars still thrash about on the street outside. Toiling away in obscurity has become my day job. Passions have ceased to grip me. Off the record, I am suffering less than you’d be led to believe. I am calling the sorting out of my consciousness a matter of Quality Of Death Issues. Haven’t been eating much before midnight.

I don’t know why my dentist was calling me at 8 in the morning. Her voice was trapped in her throat. We get along during business hours, but this early call was unprecedented in our relationship. I’m considering having my teeth shined elsewhere. Only so much, when it comes to matters of dental hygiene, will I put up with. There are boundaries. We must respect them, or else we become little more than frenzied atoms coalescing into chaotic, less-than-important structures. Then again, I now mostly just wish to be gassed with nitrous oxide. Maybe I should reconsider my instincts to flee.

Fortune is frowning at me, but, as luck would or wouldn’t have it, forgiveness shoves my back away from the wall. People are dying all around me. Mildew has become my one steady friend; I count on it to center my State Of Being. Bravery, if I can harness it, wears me around like a torn-up book jacket, and, without a way to steer, I let wishes drive. “Don’t be feeble,” people say. I put off listening to them until the money runs in.

Very adept, yes, and here comes a gang of softies to ram the door with shoulder-padded kindness. I let them have their agony. I offer them sugarcoated vitamins for dessert. Softies will always go for stuff like that.

So, the afternoons have been playing havoc with my sensibilities. Corruption, inside my skull at least, is rampant. I make some amends here and there, do a few dishes, rearrange my socks in the drawer, and dial the nearest library just to listen to the sound that books make when their pages are flipped through over the phone, almost like a fanning-type thing. The librarian there knows me well, and humors my wishes for such things-- at least for the time being. She must be getting lonelier all the time. She must be like me in a certain way, a seamless curtain of doubt and remorse, a Slipping Away that nobody will ever guess at.

Where the famous go, where the harness keeping me saddled to regret is stronger than my honor, and the Blue Danube flows where all, even the lowly Eskimo-shaped, are scared to march. I pocket my fame; I disrupt a balcony’s serenade; I pot easily persuaded folks like plants; I crave deer meat and sour-apple cider. There’s no church or music hall that’ll hold me. The crowd jeers and it sounds the way my name used to: aluminum crumpled on velvet. The B-side of my life is playing long and mellow and vastly out of tune. The garbage men scream from below: “Go get ‘em, ladies!” That about does it for my good cheer.

Faith keeps plucking at my hope’s viola (though I’m not insulated from bad reviews here), and more than ever I need sticky rice to calm my nerves. Once, being a hero’s hero, I played the chump in the tape-delayed rabid bark of mob justice. Now, oddly enough, dikephobia keeps my socks up. I don’t pander to losers as much, and my checks are watered down with trademark stamps, but I am bronzing the days toward chancy, and I am never surprised by the contents of my evening soup. Once I was not overlooked. That wasn’t so long ago. The minutes starve me from what that was. The hours count me out. The weeks hock themselves to months, and I grow less and less young.

A man who named himself Palace used to wander these halls with a copy of Melville’s Pierre in his back pocket. He’d pound on a few doors. He’d mumble to strangers. He’d sip tap water from an Elmer’s glue bottle. One night, after a violent episode of tiptoeing, the merchants of peace carried him away on a few discarded boards from a scaffolding setup. I miss the sound his shoes made on the thin carpet late at night.

Comfort has gone. My persona, what most would believe to be a true succès de scandale, is held aloft by a bosun’s chair of nostalgia. I would abseil towards acceptance, but am lacking the proper foresight, and so I stay stranded in a home built on the ruins of what seems another’s life-- safe from the unknown, yet dangerously lonely. The morning’s quick beginnings turn to dead halts by evening. Catbirding, I have seen the sea beyond, and, I fear to report, it is too much like all the land that I know too well. Emptiness does not have room for itself.

There are very few places in this country left where I can get a good shave. Most cities leave my face sticky and scattered with stray hairs. Sioux City, Iowa is prime shaving territory, always leaving my skin smooth and stubble-less. I’ve heard Lewis and Clark felt the same way. Something to do with the wind and air quality, or barometer readings. For now? In this city? Fuck it. I’m growing a beard.

A thick, scabby rust corrugates the iron bars on my window. I cannot look out and not see it there, scarring my vision like a gnarled vine gone dead and hard in the sun: one more thing locking me up here, inside.

“Very well, you can have your cashews, your mint tarts, your lazy girth, your canned lust and your cheap substitute for a wimple.” I hear one end of this phone conversation through the walls. “I see through and under all that. I’ll candycane your soul with mean streaks.” The voice checks itself, coughs a bit, then continues. “Yeah. Yeah. You know what I see when I look at you? I see a scared little girl who’s so afraid of being hurt that she goes around hurting everybody else, who’s scared to death of being an actual adult, who pretends to be laughing when she’s sobbing. And, you know what? The act’s getting really tired.” There is some general noise of banging and thrashing about, the thud of what’s quite possibly the phone thrown at some inanimate object. And then, after some more theatrics and the slamming of a door, silence comes back. It is, as always, a welcome thing into the reams of my life.

Scattering, there goes helicopters, and the sound of gunshots, and, scrambling all over for something to steady me, I realize that my holsters have been empty for far too long. The searchlights blind me, but they come and go, as I adjust to window glare and decipher the language of sirens. Decrying the chauvinism of Toucan Troops, with the verisimilitude of circumstances always just beyond the reach of my control, joyriding destiny, devouring hearsaying former sycophants, and chancing, in regards to complex histories of always-almost-over-with events, what little remains of my sanity, I feel my way over the humps and thorny turf of what has, unfortunately, come to be a simulacrum of me.

My sums of money have come down to rolled coins, embroidered cloth napkins, yellow handkerchiefs with delicately tatted edges, paint-splattered pajamas, and a statue of a golden goose who lays no eggs. I use old t-shirts for place mats. I roll toilet paper down the hallway stairs. Death has lost his pen; we know each other somewhat less than we used to, in the past’s music, when we resuscitated one another constantly through pain that pounded down in sheets. I destroyed my bugle last Tuesday, mangling it into an abstract construction, a mute contraption of bent tubes going nowhere that steals music from me no more. The charmed life I once led has been swapped for today’s meat and bread, for tomorrow’s wine, and for doing away with what yesterday has wrought. I will blow my nose no more into this now archaic brand of gold-dusted tissue, and instead I think it’ll just be unwearable boxers cankered with holes that’ll get the brunt of my phlegm and mucus.

Things that come too easy are rarely worth having. My record player’s lost its needle, and the belt’s been cogging and fluttering for years. Fidelity is not in high demand. Most things here have become obscenely intimate, and instead of compassion I find myself strung with the flaking tinsel of a curmudgeon’s dying x-mas tree. Popularity is a temporary thing, and it is a sham. Fling yourself into it; end up flung. I have given up eating toast.

You can read about my life, not at the newspaper stands, but in the sky. Harrowing guilt-- born of failure’s success-- tosses worn Blüchers from high windows. Now? I mutter this: “I don’t want to fit fit fit fit fit.” My speech patterns have lost their punctuation; words are sometimes hard to distinguish from each other. Me? Just building flowers out of milk cartons in the wind. This here guy? He’s whittling younger forms of himself out of the same old wood. He’s just a peruke covering what’s left of what he used to be. Sure, maybe he can stomach it some days. There’s some smoldering posing as hard-won affection still left where his heart once burned into the dying of the light. All is dim now, though, and there isn’t much left to admire.

I used to use my morning to be lazy. Over the course of turning into lazy evenings, somewhere, I lost track of how to not lose my languorous whims while the sun bloated its course through shimmery haze to bland haunts of sky. This face I’ve cultivated far from stardom conceals itself from what it was, from the well-known features that brought swoons and applause at a glance; and now it is only the mirror’s trust that keeps me from thinking, ‘This isn’t me.’ Dirt paints my fingernails. Grime outlines my lifestyle. The surface of who before (it seems so long ago) garnered attention has now been lost and buried in the present’s soot. An overflowing trashcan has come to symbolize my existence; I often catch myself wishing somebody would take it out.

Propellers, cooked raisins, avocado-chunk honey, twice distilled 7-Up, casual relationships with flags from countries I can’t name, sipping vermouth through a straw, olives on fingers, decomposing clutter, flailing charm, greasy toes, long of breath, at a loss for gum, hurried to a standstill, and here comes flinching deviants selling quarters for a dollar each. You’ve got to admit, it takes guts to slap folks around like that. I’ve been relegated to the number nine slot in the line up of my life. When you start kicking your socks off in your sleep, from one lonely place to another, it’s time to reconnoiter your position. There are no birds left to view this disaster that I’ve been growing accustom to being.

The cafes stink of cigarettes and mold. I function religiously gloomy under awnings of discontent. Pounding hammers provide the soundtrack to my mornings, which is better than chainsaws and fire alarms. Rushing no longer concerns me. I make guesses at the noise of passing vehicles. Indisitinctions crawl through the carpet and mumble up with the elevator and spill coffee on the bed. There is no agility to spare in the hard-to-capture clunk of my motions.

I used to know a destitute man who lived a few doors down named Franklin: a guy in his seventies with a patchy white beard mottling the scarred and sun-cooked skin of his face; a guy who’d spent what he had while he had it, and ergo came close to having nothing left; and who attempted to hold himself hostage in a small room 14 floors above the pavement. Just another name and face that I can place all too well from paddling through the gurgle of my past. I get the shakes so bad that I can hardly hold a pen. In dreams I am always running, hurrying to and/or away from something. There is never enough time. I am always unprepared, and a feeling of being exposed haunts me. I meet Franklin in these dreams, perhaps, wandering by the side of the road, trapped in a burned-out building, floating in a ravaged, swampy green swimming pool; and he doesn’t speak to me, but I know there is something futile about my whole traversing of this fluctuating and death-cluttered landscape. Endlessly packing my bags and charging off to nowhere. Hopelessness infuses me as I wake and stare at the yellow walls that speak in drunken platitudes and never forgive. Franklin, too, had walls like this; I believe this may have driven him to clutch violets late at night, dripping with sweat, lost between sleep, pleading with the windows to keep him away from them until morning, praying for the foul weather of his mood to lift. It is always walls, always there to stare back at you with empty awe, and no answers lie behind them. You pay double for your loneliest hours, in the dark, lost, trapped, and mesmerized by the street’s soul-crushing séance: trucks beeping backwards, bus motors idling, the rattle of trashcan lids, the scampering pound of sudden steps on the sidewalk, voices scratching violent chords between the lampposts’ steady hum.

I hear protests still, but they are of the mild variety-- not hurt enough to be more than a bit sore, not weighted enough to know what it’s like be smashed by oppression, to be thumbed to a pulp. And here I am, caught on guard, channeling curtain calls that possibly never were, finding fault with every moment I’ve existed, while they go on rosy faced and boring, tempered and bubbly, not scaring anybody, doing the only thing they know how: useless wiggling to music that means less than something, chanting in the singsong language of empty gestures, frowning coolly in the gusty warmth of a blank-faced grimace. I remember the latter. It wasn’t so long ago, and as I build these houses out of memories to store more memories inside of (it takes cautionary logic to undo me), I sense the ceiling caving in, bubbling downward in blobs of regret as I stick to the present-soaked floor tiles. Sarcasm is the latest form of nihilism, and I put up with my own grumbling too, I admit, but there you have it, right? There. The want of money keeps us all in line. We are merely instruments of capitalism’s blunt force. For the three years I had in the limelight, surceased in a fatal blow of overweening pride, I got what I deserved. Before, I walked early so I wouldn’t run late. It got me everywhere slow, and now that seems bright. Now? Well, now the banks are fighting mean, without my money, and it keeps me wearily edged with a bitter happiness-- one that scurries along on wobbly legs and forgets to say grace until after supper’s gone away forever. There are limits, and there are always more to test, even when you’re up and in; it gets dark; it gets cold. Trumpets hide in my basement as the attic seals itself away, plied with bourbon and roses. Everything, in the end, fits.