Tuesday, March 12, 2013

minimum daily requirements

…and the preacher says may god have mercy on your soul. while all i can think of now is for some reason these old women, bundles in black shawls waiting for the bus in the rain, huddled under awnings, looking glum and dissatisfied, a bunch of dogs. the bathroom attendant sits and waits, the paper spread out over his crossed legs, skimming the box scores and race results. electricity used to be my pal, but now it’s going to go on ahead and be my demise. oh well. there’s times i’ve thought of doing away with this old thing i call me, the subway track sucking me down below the wheels, shocked by the electric third rail. retraining your mind to think in certain peculiar ways. plenty’s the time i’ve figured i’ve got the capacity for compassion, for mercy too, for shit’s sake. lousy kisses. that’s something else. i’ve had plenty of life’s gutters. sure. real sucker for waiting around. but who’s going to hold your hand when you’re down in the dumps? not me. not me. the preacher says something about salvation while an accordion booms at the back of my head. clamped to a wooden chair. a levy of muddy sadness. i am sleeping in chains. my feet are bound in iron. it was the way his glasses kept falling off, the greasy nose, the crooked eyes, and most of the time he was hounding me to keep quiet. i was too loud for him. i talked too much. well. oh well. that’s the short of it. the worst part of being an asshole is how the god-awful loneliness gets to you. the way life seems to be dancing on away without you. but that’s the way i wanted it. i am a son-of-a-bitch. i am the night. color me black. that’s the life i made for myself. doesn’t hurt that i’ve got a mug like jack elam. some say i’m ugly. i don’t know. a matter of taste. god seeping back into the mix. satan pleading for a second chance. eyebrows that matter. i’m figuring on a few things in this here afterlife. walking in beauty like the night, even if it’s through swamps and sewers, even if it’s a deluge of rat piss. the sweet guise of sweaty guys like me. milling around with nothing to do but frown. the lord ain’t cruel enough to do to me what i shouldn’t a done to others. appraising the situation like so, well, here what we’ve got is about one hundred and ninety pounds of hammy flesh dripping with low-end aspirations. lock it up. feed it chopped bits of tire and charcoal coffee. keep it docile. make sure it doesn’t get any ideas of its own. keep them genes to yourself, boy. that’s right. so i made up for lost time and ran afoul of the world they made for me. got my scrap-metal soul heaped into the frying pan’s fire, and like a smelter it made me what i am, all hardened globs of bitter revenge and stones of remorse. the bible spills riddles on the floor, and the tiles are cracked inside of me, and the grout grows wild into crooked rivers of mold. when i’m dead and gone. when i’m nowhere. lift a gauzy curtain of muslin over what remains. or maybe bloodstained organdy. i miss the sound of my own footsteps. the slap and bop of patent leather on concrete, climbing stairs, scampering to the drugstore, tapping to music, stepping softly through shag carpet, toeing around in the clothes hamper. there are sparrows needling my brain. events will not conspire to appraise the situation. time plays funny games with what’s left of it, and tosses aside your instincts for noticing it. god speaks through flushing toilets now. a emphysemic baritone murdering an aria. i’m torching all the places where i used to live. i’m taking my deepest dives with me, and if i ever come up for air, if i lose my loose change, my american appetite will fatten up on the meek, on the powerless, on those driven to distraction by infomercials, on the petty and charmless, on the lawnmower-motor-powered, on the mangy indigent irresponsible hordes, and i will not sink before i am full. i will be a nightmare swindled into your daydreams. i will plunge below mediocrity’s tide. do not think of tender things. that churl of a preacher’s passive in his insight. oily tar-coated shit that passes for compensation. i remember chicken that tasted like shoes because i’d put my wet converse in the oven to dry them out. i’m holding out for pity from higher places than this. my knees don’t got knives in them just yet. lost my teeth in a poker game. been clubbed by the indecent demands of jealous ladies enough to know kind shoveling from a bible’s greasy pages, and now they’re going to cook me, fry my brains, char this fleshy hunk of scabs and misery until it smokes and sizzles. while all i can do is ponder on back to the loops and horseshoes of that highway curving off and disappearing into the whorled mashed chunks of fog. came back home to nothing. went away. being gone is something i got quite good at. when you trail off down that miserable plume-smoked two-lane there’s really not much else you can twine to your thoughts except that it’s cold and the headlight’s ain’t doing the shining that they should be. milling around here i think about these things now and am not saddened but maybe made dumb by the crush of those there events that maybe shouldn’t have happened but there really is no help for that now. the white dashes take some getting used to, and it’s flickering and hesitant, well, if you make your way along the snakes and hairpins gashed into the scraped mountain walls, and if the radio’s churning static, and then there’s the sweeps of nodding off, almost zombie-like, a comfortable lull in the ankles between ups and downs on the pedal, a fuzzy safe place between dreams, and you come to and head-shake back into a hurried turn of the wheel, and screeches come and go, you smell pine maybe or taste ginger on your sandpaper tongue, the back of your throat dry and scratchy, your eyes itching with a steady burn, and the surge of adrenaline snaps you to attention and you think i can do this i can do this i can make it just keep these eyes on the road turn on the heater and breathe and keep going, and you do, and the turns keep coming and you’re dizzy, but there’s amphetamines in the glove compartment and you remember this and you think i think i can think i can think therefore i can do, and a popped blister of hope bursts and sambas through your veins, and you know this’ll not be the end. dope drove me to distraction, sure, and maybe destroyed some good parts of my brain’s cool-handed configuration, but that ocean-side highway that night spilled more of my ambition to the shore than anything else ever did. so you go ahead and take the pills, and at first it’s like you’re high just off the taste, but then you settle in, and the fog starts to get friendly with you, and the motorcycles are one-eyed monsters, friendly enough, come to help you along as they swerve and cough by. faces smile at you from the sheer cliffs, aiding your wakefulness, and then you start jabbering to yourself about androids and sugar substitutes and why it is you always do this, always end up alone driving late at night. maybe you get jittery. sweat-soused hands bang staccato on the wheel. just bumping and winding along with a beer-stained roadmap for the grizzlier places claiming rights to the crying jags of your always-longing club-footed heart. the trees are dragons swooping in for a little closer gander as you hem and haw around the bends. then maybe you surmise that confidentiality and privation are two very different things, and privacy is perhaps just a shoddy way of covering up for a lack of confidence, and you scratch your belly, and you crack the window so the sea air can rush in and lift your sappy sodden head out of this trance that’ll only end you up careening into the rocks below, smashed and alone while the waves lap up what’s left. what’s left. then there’s that. it’s an iffy business, trying to pole vault prevailing circumstances surrounding loss. just try not to leave too smoky of a trail. test out a few xanadus on the nail-tough verandas of your mettle’s dealey plaza. the road keeps coming at you and at you. on and on. and these small tacky obeisances buoyed up by reverence and middle-infielder instincts. so, you get in a cab one night. it’s pouring rain, of course. it’s got to be raining. you start to wonder about the word ‘inept’ and if there’s a word ‘ept’ to counter it. you want to feel very ept, if it were a word, at what you are about to do. when i was younger, when i was very adept at sitting around and not saying anything and not doing anything, i would contemplate art and poetry and opera and philosophy. now all i do is pace back and forth, snoop and pry into the lives of others, and think about girls and sports and money. it’s okay. i don’t do much regretting over it. i cut my fingernails. i snooze through the alarm most mornings. miss buses and get caught in the rain. socks soaked. so, you get out of the cab, right? you pay the cabbie. you make a beeline for a hotel awning. and then, maybe, some guy kamikazes out the front door like a man-in-the-moon marigold set afire, and he rams headfirst into you and sends you mister over sister into the street, where you scratch and bloody yourself up pretty good while narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic with swift dodges and lurches and skippings and eventually a clutch sidewalkward dive that gets you stomped by a bellhop in a red cap. some guy ditches his cigarette in the vicinity of your head. dog shit’s on your heel. and, of course, it’s raining. some binaca-breathed bastard is hovering over you, asking if you’re up to snuff, and you’re not, but you say that you’re doing okay, just to make him ditch you and scram. you’re not okay. you’ve never been more not okay. a circus horse rears back, bucks and kicks, and the weather is dark and loud, and the cops are selling cucumbers, apples, pears, and kumquats out of their trunks. it’s a bad business and you’re plunked down right in the middle of it. poor you. jesus. suck it up, right? get over it. move on. that’s the thing to do. don’t use up all your half-life wallowing in your own parking-garage sadness. use them old survival instincts. sure, but then amnesty catches up to even the sneakiest among us, like describing a bark to somebody who doesn’t know what a dog is, pistols go on murdering, grim becomes you, and even the losers scratch off a few lucky numbers between sometimes and a yawn. i keep my jaws clenched just in case the guard dogs sniff their way back around here. can you imagine? the preacher makes his signs of the cross. i was sitting lonelier than a dead chess piece in the back room of eddie’s where the boys were all dealing kansas city lowball, and the crashplunk of pool balls was just mood music for saints, and i was leaning back on two in a folding chair sucking down cigarettes and sipping rye whisky from a highball glass. tantamount to nothing i was coming to depend on the seedier sort for my luck, spending my spirit all over town in my robin-egg-blue highwaters, in my eskimo hare-pelt hat, in my tattered army jacket with the lining hanging on by a few threads here and there, with my torn fingerless gloves the color of mud, with holes in my shoes and holes in my pants and a few holes in my head, as i puttered off into the early morning scrubbing at the day’s stubble with sleep tearing holes from the scars i was using for eyes, telling time by streetlights. i had a certain tunnel i used. they didn’t run trains through it no more, and it was closed off, but i got myself in there, and there i could be alone. i’d lie low in the worried weeds and juniper shrubs, underneath a decade’s worth of graffiti and fifty-years’ soot, cuddled by a threadbare sleeping bag, spasming and seizing and grinding away my teeth, vomiting between the ties and tracks, losing what was left of my mind. nobody knew where i was, which was exactly where i wanted to be just then. sometimes places just find you. i blew smoke up the ass of what was left of the world. a girl found me that night at eddie’s though. her breath was gin. her mouth was oleander and mint. her eyes flashed like new pennies, and her hips swayed and took care of the rest. the damn best two legs i’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. she was something to be lost in, and i was, and there was nothing else i could do but think about her. in all this scabbed-up place in my head where it used to just read empty or out for lunch, well, this gal comes around with her pepper and spice and mushes up all my thinking like that, so she’s taking up all that space there, and there’s nothing i’m going to know about anymore except her. the music in her name sang me to sleep. the tunnel wasn’t so empty or unused anymore. i left them boys in the backroom of eddie’s, and this girl she messed me up pretty good. i’m not one to go on about blame. i know what i done. i know why i done it. sure. the preacher goes on about forgiveness, about getting my self straight with my maker and all the likes. but i know what’s what when it comes to equality between the genders, when it comes to who’s running the show and putting placemats on your sensibilities. boring summer afternoons have probably killed their good share of us, when it’s getting on into the twilight but not quite carving out gold yet, and you sit there and you think dumb dumb dumb dumb, and it’s all you’ve got, just this spoon-fed domestication that leaves you sapped and worm-headed, this monotonous now, this dull heavy thing that hunkers down and doesn’t wonder. what’s next is what is and what you’ve got is on and on and on. the nice things play themselves out, and then you find yourself stealing candy bars from the drugstore just to have something besides this blah that is becoming the blah blah blah of your every gesture. ordinary things don’t add up. you want silent thunder. you want burgundy rubber bands. you want to rescue choking victims in sad cafes. you want night to come and throw its starry blankets all over you. i sit here and i wait, just like i’ve always done. i’ve got real good at waiting. well, at least that’s one thing i’ve got good at. the sun’s fixing on setting low and lovely just above them hills over yonder i bet, up a piece where we used to hide our bottles tied to ends of ropes thrown down the well. well, now, i just shouldn’t go on thinking about such things. it won’t do much good. all i’ve got is this body shackled to this thick wooden chair, and it’ll soon not house me no more. the texture of the wood's grain under my fingers is familiar, smoothly rough-hewn and even, like a maple bat fresh off the lathe. i dig my fingernails into the chair's arm's slick skin, and they nestle and crook into an almost damp softness. the preacher man says repent. he tells me to accept jesus as my personal savior. and i want to do this very much. i want to make him feel good about what he’s doing with his life, what he’s chosen to do with his time here on earth. i pray for him. i pray inside. i don’t let him know it. he white-knuckles his bible and pulps his eyeballs, arching his head back, deep in the need of needing. i know that feeling. that unendurable want to have something bigger and better than yourself, something to save you, something to make you wise up and start living better, something that floats and lifts and hugs you back to safety. the preacher tells of trespasses and i forgive him his and mine and everyone’s. i breathe in deep and hold it and hold it and hold it, and i swear juniper’s gone wafting through here. but hell, the candles around these parts all burnt out long ago. hallowed be thy name, father who art, where? where? well i’ll just go on and assume the worst of what’s best the best i can, just like i always done. finally it’s all going to stop. it’ll all be no more and so will i. i breathe in this breath forever inside of me and never let it go, and never let it go, and never let it go.