Friday, May 27, 2011

venez m'aider

in a scent


so old

wayly nixed with

tied beegames

illustrated like chimneys eyed

two smokier raids than a gal

aunt lee

you see

said it worst of


all you

who would smell of dew

who knew the toes of away

from far

by a glum chew

while ring givers

operate over red rivers

tastingly retreatable in a dodge

of streetcarred tears

drippedly pawned

never owned to go

you veer a bunch

graping seeds

lest a season’s pass

bestir honeyed pasta

to a finally gone-like spoon of now

houses ducked whiter


terrestrial tones


if what mister e


what’s happieringly gluesilly

churn for a chime

to underdo the was

of machinemade fuzz

lusteringly skin-kneed

set to factful settings


in rooms that move

for less than

starry takes to say

but not see a


all full with only


Monday, May 23, 2011

sprinklers in a fireworks factory

Possible look-a-likes dominoing, a bit lootful and glutted, gunked, and made better by artichokes, not heartless yet; and this just in: you’ve been noticed, not caught. There is no reason to get behind a caprice. File away all the nails under “Clipped” or just couple a one. It’s stringy. Indulge the worse third of better’s accompaniment. Booing in the foreground. Died at the wrong time; incidentally born too soon to be late. Enter to lose. So, we are here rivaled only by stamped coupons for beets, but in the hoopla of once-baked beans we had to kvetch when the cats upped the ante by subtracting tomato paste from the recipe. Not by a lawn’s mow. Niched in the thin of it. Soldering the defects of dancing without a date. Basement’s empty and boarded down; bottoms from the top. Played to all your directions at twice before once had a chance to even twist or shout. Tackling misses and moralizing silent prayers while the wind slips funny through handshakes and left-handed undoings. Drawling it out, verified and downstanding-- if we play it low enough. Placed halfway closer to halfway there, always. Fight it out or get over it, sunny and rainy, wished and washed away, and the path to push dim ideas to the left of low was cooked and bought out with deviations from the most common denominations available. Impressions were made in tin. The rain-wet street shining with sun after the rain’s gone, that’s what’s left, at least a little better than all this other good. Spitting spiders to all the winged insects, cutting carpet and sparing the same, could’ve had nothing but instead traded it all in for a few more. Keeping track of the years with days without dates. Bored with behaving, gobbled up by waiting, shyer than moonbeams, glassed-in for dangerous lending. Vend a heart; steal a tear. Dry out a whistle or four. Get found. Looking, there, see? Deterrents to aging less than gracefully mismanage time just as well as referrals to outer-space sources. A woman-made man seeks more women. Escape from what it was you had before you knew you’d be able to get away with it, with the reliability of the moon’s wobble to cheer you on. Burbly voiced and wedge shaped, the most remembered bits of a first meeting. We had Tater-Tot pies for breakfast, and the good-for-something gussied down the more-than-likely in an attempt at bravery-- it failed wonderfully. Such an undulant bore it all was, the casking of liquid garlic, gooped, headweak and, with more than a salmon’s chance of being loxed, complicated and sloppy. Secondary sources primarily taking a comeback for granted. Less sour than a sweetly lost thing mountebanked to chafe felled weathervanes. Hasped and cuddling as some postmodernday Bellerophon might, if the mighty were only filled with daylight and fluorocarbon inhalants. Something joined at the hip with bummed freight fraught with a liver’s instinct. Steering a slow eye beyond the used-car stink of loss, there, somehow oblivious, led for a drum tap, steadied with home at short last. Not a round flatter than this one. Clearer here, to-go only, when the Sundays sell themselves for rent, and we get hurried-- chopped past understanding-- into the shards that nobody’ll ever see whole. Topps or Fleer or even Donruss, it don’t matter much anymore. Let’s move on past the bleacher seats, past the headlight glare of it all, and get a place out on Bourbon Avenue with a rope swing tied to a sycamore and a still out back to keep the neighbors happy. From bad to mean to flown away. Suitcased to a few attachments, bagged yet not yet ready to leave. Imagine a sneeze that’d rid the past of our dusty selves. That’s no way to go, like that, without, not choking, a breath. Beetled into a stated submission. Forced to err. The chanceless dance in a cuckoo’s tomb. Nowhere there’s life without dying. Evered to the swift golly before god’s gosh, then, of course not, whittling up a trophy in baleen. Seaside next to unlocked lands, strutting in dry mud nudefoot; it is gummed to leaky faucet drops, junked to flats, closed beginnings, and pies skying the rest. Heaved atlases misdirecting the hounds of winter, and then time carnivals out or back in, never a wilder tent’s wrinkling or a graver hole filled with love’s marl there was. Best to be side-mirroring to attenuate suffered looks. Gusts through the hemi keep cross blood from a flow. Let’s lure aroma back around the kitchen’s sound. A fix for the had-it-alls, maybe compliments too for a patch-- though hardly holding-- of vultured takes on being sane, will keep bad sides of the bored at bay. Miracles change the same tires under and under what never was. In the cold, out of ways, plunked to show, for the crushed aluminum of a beat-up song, could we stand each other for one last dance?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ee cummings’ one-night stand

hearing is believing when you’re blind to being better than good for once it’s trouble that we’re getting ourselves into here where seeing is dying a little less all the time in the trap of saying no over and over for no good reason like when it’s raining on venus again this yes is what we tell ourselves but nobody else in the moon-bright of what’s here for now before we get to going or moving on with it already because the past is just what we’ve stained with being us or a pillow that holds the shape of our heads for a lily’s while at least we’ve got each other for now like this and if any oneeyed son of a bitch wants to come along and call it quits on the whole thing then well what’re you going to do about it but just lie there huger than the grave and enjoy what’s left of laughing and drunkenness which is more than anything and everything you could imagine all at once in any how of a why and it does matter because it doesn’t matter at all while we both smoke cigarettes completely flowered in our breathing and watch a ceiling bigger than a circustent explode like stars never taught to dance and talk as if the world’s coming to an end…which it is

speaking english

I’d developed a very precise sense of smell that day for some reason I couldn’t remember, and I smelled a drowsy Mexico with it. That’s just before I saw the girl’s tit popping out of her dress top. But only just before it, like maybe fifteen seconds or so. I was also trying to think of something that rhymed with shelf besides self. This was another thing that I was doing. And, as well as that, I was wondering how soon it would be before one of my shoelaces next became untied. On top of that I was craving some sort of fruit juice bevarage with ice and a straw in it, something refreshing for a hot day.

The woman carrying the bag of oranges. She had all those oranges squashed in there. She was one of a group of people gathered on the street corner obeying a DON’T WALK sign. Idling. I just noticed her with those oranges for some reason. I don’t know why. One of those things. Something else: For whatever reason my calf had a bad cramp in it. It was really bothering me so I was walking with a limp of a sort. Sort of. I was thinking, also, of the people on the corner being lemmings. Now, lemmings don’t leap from high cliffs to their demise. It’s a myth. But still, the metaphor works for me. I like saying it. It’s better than sheep. I think. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a preference I have.

I needed something nice in my life that’d come along with t-ball location so I could send it where the grass don’t grow. But what can I say? I’m just a late arriving kind of guy. I can say that. Here’s something else: I had this thought that went, ‘I’m not done punishing myself yet, damn it!’ It was a loud thought, just like that.

One thing is, is that kissing elbows all day will wear you out. That I know.

This day I was walking around smelling things. The woman carrying the oranges in the bag was around, and then there’s the tit popping out too. Here’s one way to brighten your day. Plus, caring about enlivening my condition. It’s so-so. A tingle in my head or something. That gets me through with it.

There were the Crump brothers, who were twins, when I was a kid, and they still are, twins, the Crump brothers that is, but now I don’t know them. Not anymore. These twins were something else. Building forts was most of what they did together. All smiles. These guys. And also these two wore the same t-shirt a lot. One I remember pretty well now is one that said, “HOW’S LOOKING AT YOU?” The Crumps had a hard time controlling the twins. They had to be separated a lot. They were a couple of scrappers. The dad believed in Jesus. I think the mom had some kind of stomach issue. She always stunk, a little bit at least, of shit. Sometimes I’d have Taco Bell with the twins. Sloppy eaters. Those two. Always dribbling sour cream or with lettuce in their teeth and stuff. It wasn’t that much that I’d dine with them. Twice in a while. The Crump twins. They were really something.

All various and kinds of odors all the time, that day. Beachy, hayseed, Oil Of Olay, lizard skin, battery, sunflower seeds, swampy gutter, toasted hamburger buns, forest, laundry, canoe, Big League Chew, sour beer, zoo.

Just like that, you see, I turn my head, for why I don’t know. Just did it. And there’s the tit. Just like right there staring at me with a pepperoni eye. I stared back. That’s what I did. The girl didn’t know. Her attention was somewhere else. Another thing: I caught a hint of salsa. This was right when I eyed the tit. So there’s this tit. And I’m thinking about salsa. Also, I was planning out a route to get to the library that wouldn’t involved any stop signs, just lights. I don’t trust cars to stop at stop signs all the time. Occupied by this stuff. That’s what was going on. I was distracted by these things. The salsa. The tit. The library route planning. It was all jumbling. Motor oil. Tar. Junipers. Hamsters. So many things scenting the breeze.

Strolling brings me to a situation. Here’s the thing. It’s standard to do some judging. Waiting and then, there you go, something happens. And then you’re looking where you’re looking when this something happens. It’s a tit. Popped loose from a top. And it’s there. You look. Hi. There you go. And that’s it. You take a hack at what life soft tosses your way. Sometimes you bloop one between diving fielders. You take your chances and book around the bags. It’s, what? Something else.

I’m settled. A vaudeville of the senses. A scene change. Operation’s over. Done tipping pitches. All that business is for the birds, now. God, what we notice. Things we see and smell. I don’t have an option anymore. It’s this or not this. Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s that. But I doubt it. If I’m supposed to see only the things I notice, or happen to see, well, there’s nothing at all that I can do about it.

A topless sunbather is one thing. If she rolls over. That’s another. But a tit? Just popping out to say hi. That’s another thing.

I’ve got my suspicions.

Places to spit. Like me or leave me be. Just, as it goes, so I go wondering what kind of person I’m going to be this time around. Always different, each time around. Not a chance that fire engine’s will ever sing. Places to scout out. Things to draw on. Ballooning around. And codes, those too, that crack without any help from me. You see a miracle and then you sniff some dog shit, and then, well, and then you might have a chance.


The hollow sound of a fire engine’s siren. It’s murder in here under these lights. I rise early and never sleep. The sun does a few weak chin-ups and spills itself into the streets. Being tired has become a way of life. There is change to count, playbills of today’s most famous events to stuff into envelopes, and blue eyes to paint the sky with. Taking risks. Wearing an ecru tie. I want us to be like regular people. Screaming all over the city. That’s for squares, not rhombuses. Car chases too. Airport security. Tinted windows. Sunglasses as well. We get pinched, sure, but it’s not a crime to burn our names into wallpaper with lighters. We’ll have a good time for a long time, maybe for a good long time. If it ever could get better, better than this. Than this. Nobody knows. Nobody.


“We were going over the specs for a few brighter ideas in an elevator when this chick pipes up with a voice from Mars. She’s not shy about it. It’s just that she didn’t need somebody to love her. That was the main thing about it. She wanted it. But, you see, she didn’t need it. It wasn’t something she had to have to be, like, happy leading her life. She didn’t need to be loved. Swarming and glossing, tweaked things first in there, but still, it was a whelming steaming towards an over just to be jammed in there like that with all the intel and procurement data scuffling windmills and trouncing facts with conceptual bullet points. And then we’re comping laughs too, just like that. Besides, I never offer enough up to put up with, in the first. Verisimilitude matters. Passé belongs to the past or the tomorrow, not to me, not here. So, then this lady’s got wonderful foot dynamics. The one with the high-altitude pipes. The look of her shoes with the socks and the dress pants’ bottoms is, well, just fucking dynamite. There’s just something about the ankles, the socks’ cut, taking chances, sagging a bit, cool, white with red and blue stripes you can just barely make out below the pants’ cuffs, which are cut a bit high, but not high water or anything, or not like Capris. No, it’s just subtle, like a size too short in the length, and the shoes are old and worn, probably an off brand of some sort, but are like old tennis shoes, maybe sneakers of some sort, almost like a Vans or Converse, but maybe they made Reeboks or Adidas like that in the 70s. But the shoes are dirty and raw. They seem like they’ve seen the sights, been around the battlefield and back a few times, too. There’s nothing fake about the whole foot-ankle-sock-pants-cuff scene there. It made me think, ‘natural.’ I sometimes think in one word. It makes ideas easier to rotate and toss and skiffle with. Nothing of the poser going on. Not that that mattered. She’s just showing off her vocal range over there. An “over there” that was, by the ways of whiffs, pretty damn close to my over here, if you want to bake batter with the oven off. But I’m not a guy who’ll go in for such trite crap, so it was move on or irk the boat. This gal’s a gabbing. We go blind to weds and dos and do-overs. It’s slippered straw talk. Fassbinder the whole shit-hole stink of it, for all I know or care to know about it. It’s where I can stand, where I’m standing, hashed to a hush-hush, like that, with my feelers out for the who’s, or whose for that matter, who of it. Gleeking inexpertly at the floor buttons that are lighting up like a bingo board, you know, flashes of yellow circles, and no 13. Never a 13. By gum. What attributed b.s. we’ve got to hindsight and overlook. Besides, I’m crunching figurines up in the noodler there, and we’ve got quite a little scrum jackjawing there, breathing back and forth the same stale-peanut breath we’ve inherited from the flight in, stewardesses underhanding those tiny bags of peanuts at you as they hip-rock by in the aisle. Beware of my eructation and the temper I’ve built deboarding and waiting, just to wait some more, and then we’re smacking and all eyebrows over it, tabling frustration, and pooling what’s left of our r&r to jailbreak and 7-10 split our most undervalued happenstances. Buy high and sell even higher. That’s your minor op. for the moment. This chick’s spilling it, and so, as we were just a confab of effortless wind there, well, it takes you making more noise to listen sometimes. Vapid? No. I’m chipping the cabinet of how-the-hell-do-I-keep-here-over-here while there are at least zero arrows pointed at Yours Falsely on the descent, japing myself in with threaded yet put off how-do-you-don’t rising in my gullet. A distinguishing surround sound there, let me say. We’re all scuffing the floor too, maybe doing some Cosbying, shoe-wise that is, and performing some slight bends and what may have seemed at a glance mini yoga moves, to keep limber, what with time essencing and all the dislikes, though my legs were anything but sore, stiff, or cramped, of you want to know the crooked truth of it. Be that as it may or may not, I for two am not going to let some scuttlebutting chick Watergate her way into my life like that. Ken dolls be damned. So, then, well, I go something like, “Well, well, gents. Welcome to a beheading.” It’s like a bad pilot for a sitcom: it doesn’t get picked up. Huffing from the back, she goes, “He shoots. He…bricks!” Ensuing laughter. Yep. Cackles and some real belly ones too. I wasn’t going to shave my pubes over it or anything. But still, I’m not enthused about the crack. This lady who doesn’t need love? Well, what the high oh-holy-shit am I going to brave the deep blue sea over it for? I can’t charge to paint a fence that’s been all torn apart and ruined by a windstorm. And being that I’m the one who’s like putting in OT to reinstall the finishing touches here, well, let’s just say, or not say, that I didn’t do most of what I said I did back then. Back then. Now? Well, I just do and say I didn’t. It lends a sunup to my off days. Better milk the cow before the maids show up, right? Well, old anyhow, I’m ad libbing a junker there, and she’s already crafting a lead, so we meet somewhere in how/why/who town, and then it’s scrape off the mustard and pickle relish, you know? Bad hands. Fumble fingers. Throwing stones. Find weather that’s crimson breaking clumpy over GLAD-bag pastures. Flared headlights sunk shippy with radar-avid hooks. Nobody loves you when you’re unsound. Bugle mist into topcoats. Rundown to phone dials, to trapped past, to mastered uses, incompletes, stuck between floors. Give me whatever test you’ve got; I’m sure I’ll fail. Brand name sadness stalks fallen leaves across streets. Goobering what was not just right there, um, well, what was right here too, now, or then, as it was or were, just a play in the line, a gasp before sinking, sugar in the gas tank. Lasting only lasts so long. I moved to the prairies from the steppes, and just kept going and going until I was gone. Nothing different but everything not quite the same. You know?”

“They don’t got elevator operators no more. Not no more. They’ve got DIY elevators now. You hit the button. You choose your floor. Real complicated mess. You go up. You go down. It’s complex. The things we do. Pressing buttons. Standing still. Keeping quiet. For things and reasons, like god, that I’ve never rightly understood. Ranging or raiding, whatever difference it makes. Who but me’s keeping score anyway? But that’s being older for you. That’s just being. Whatever chorus of booing gets made out of it. Well, it’s keepsakes and keep-aways or loudmouthing for the worst of it. Hard to chuck your whole reason for being out the 58th floor window and then keep it all to yourself. Feeling low? They’re still serving at the bar. At least that’s what I hear.”

“This guy is a real asshole. I mean it. What a little-dick shape-shifting fuck. Playing with himself when there’s not much to play with. Shit. Looking me in the eyes and all. That doesn’t happen here, buddy. Right? Hi. Here I am, wiggling around. Shooting off more than my share, sure, but this guy’s making it like real difficult to keep to the wall, right? Hello. Getting the go on the going and all. He’s really polluting the place with is peanut-breath b.s. and shit-heel sensibilities. The quarters are like way too close for his meowing tough-guy stance. But, well, I’m in a mood. It’s a free-for-all for me. Hopping off the train, chucking change at the lights some sadistic bastard threw up in the sky for use on an as-needed basis. Balls out, right? That’s what he would’ve called it, as if anybody cared about his little opining. Little dicks always act like they need to show off, make up for their shortcomings in some other way, become a dictator or buy a giant truck or something. Just leave me the fuck alone. Okay? Hello. Hi there. Wow. I’m like right here, you know? Well, hi. There you go. That’s why I like ‘em and leave ‘em be. Right? Who needs to put up with that shit? Not me. That’s who. My laugh’s my only autograph. And I don’t, let me repeat, I do not want you around. Okay?”

“Basically in a corner. Actually, literally in a corner, and metaphorically too. They were not liking each other in there. I think they say ‘riding’ but I’m not for certain. Blunt as I was, or am, to these types of disagreements over personal space, there just wasn’t a whole lot I was going to not put up with. I keep to myself. I try not to bother others. I don’t talk unless I’m talked at. I just stand around and pretend I’m on Mars. Can’t blame me for just being there.”

“Lewd. Fractious. Blasé. That about sums him up. Done in by over-consumption and too much stimulation. Gargantuan in ego-related matters. Head of hot air. Very distinct in manner, approach to situations, witty and argumentative. Always got to be the first on the block, you know the type of character. All built up with nowhere to go. Hurt, like that. That’s all.”

“…the other night. That’s when. Well, not that night. The other one. The night when the sky wasn’t falling down and vomiting all over everything just yet. Great. So, I played it cheerful, dreamy even, with an Abigail for a queen, like a rave at Ebbets field, and we conquered the natives with sedatives and boilerplate, smoking Fatimas and spilling juleps all over the grass in the dappled shade of some plane trees. Nobody guessed we’d played it pretty damn far from the vest that night. Just a few of us acting like moles, I guess. The other night, that night, well, we we’re a bit reckless and in medium-high spirits. Backyards were just things to run through, and sometimes swim through if there were a pool, and we went hopping fences, brick walls mostly, and it was standard procedure to scream, to holler and hoot it up. Just like that. We were calling, ‘Class dismissed!’ And nothing, any nothing you could ever know, would never deeply bellow beyond any of it. That night. Jesus. The night I can’t quite get settled or straight in my head. And then, you know, I think we’re taking the elevator, and it’s so crowded you can’t breath without inhaling somebody else’s exhale. And we’re hunkering down for the ride, trying not to pass out or something dumb. There’s too much not going on already. But, you know, it was this bitch talking about not being able to be loved or some such fodder. Or, yeah, or what makes this whole thing like really fucking unendurable, was that none of us had ever thought of ourselves being as the type to, you know, fall deeply in love, whatever the hell that might mean. I’ve sucked face enough to know that I don’t know shit when it comes to these things. Hasty. That was more like what I was thinking mostly. I’d had it down to there with the whole crumbled mansion of things, up until then at least, or most, as it was, or were. Where was I? Well, that girl was a real stinker, taking a crap on our collective mediocre spirits like that. None of us knew what to do, so we just stood there and rode down with the elevator, feeling the drop in our legs, that change in pressure maybe? You know, it makes your stomach queasy sometimes, or your middle parts get lighter, and if you jump it’s fun.”


“She was so pretty.”

“It was the way the shadows hit at just the perfect angle to give you that sense of what it was like to be alive just right there at that moment there that was just like looking but more too.”

“I’m done with it.”

“Check’s cashed.”

“I’m not quite sure how to perform a lobotomy, but I was willing to give it a go.”

“It’s hard to imagine how other people do in their daily lives. Or what they do. It’s survival for us all, but we’ve each got our separate understandings of it, of going about this stuff of living. And we’ve all now got our own soundtracks to do it to.”

“Based on jellyfish. Blooms of them. It’s not simple but not that complicated.”

“I swear. We were just going over some specs when out of nowhere…”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

some more from "The Breakneck Speed of Time Present"

At least I can blow my nose with impunity around here. These arrestingly red and mousy brown shapes keep yesterday’s makeup in check, like lipstick on the sip-spout of a coffee-cup lid, always there, attaining something, getting rid of circumstances, minding business, or splitting the difference between preciousness and endearing charm. A reprobate who wonders aloud about the condition of what he dons from the hurricane of clothes on his floor. That’s clingy and self probing. You made yourself think stochastically in the résumé style of fathers without sons. Last New Year’s Eve I screamed custard to the cicadas. Got away with it too. Playing the horn now. It’s bed posts made of glory, blindingly high, sofa’d to myself, crossed out with permanet marker, in a bind and worn with pride. Organ music in the shadows weeping towards light. Attaining is crucial to being rid. Gold and gray. Rust dripping from clouds that are like mashed thumbprints smudged on the dishwater sky. All the peasants were busy buying houses while the rich drank their souls for aperitifs. I don’t blame the poor for income gaps, and we’ve got discount retailers to keep in mind. Fair enough to the weather, at least. Bluffy overtures blinding a tincture of horizon that sponges and kicks dirt. A distressed algal bloom. We make pies out of pieces of American bones. Let me get finished. There. It’s a moving time that we spend dressed in letters. Troughing through thoughtlessness in the bristling chill of winter’s worst. Make-shifting the campered homes of born-again loyalists and hardened pamphleteers. I am comforted by ill will. Advertisers are buying space in my dreams. Slow in getting up, the flowers cotton-candy pink and drooping, referential rain spoiling the taste in my mouth and underhanding pebbles at my knees. I’m calling bluffs and wheeling mercy-first into the slow lane. We’re just people, and we’ve only got so much space to loiter around in or linger out into. A reach for something that’s long gone. Mornings were for motorcycles and garbage men. Showerings of petals swarming and sailing in spirals like some lavish Busby Berkely dance number. Best were the least lonely times. We must’ve strained the last of whatever mercy was left. It’s soppy and brisk. The days were dummy bullets shot from an air gun into the non-existent face of good cheer. Freedom faced itself in the mirror and promptly passed out. We held tight to restive motions, badly recorded happenstances, and the cured air of sliced rhubarb pie. A grappling hand set itself into a weaving gesticulation that seemed off and somehow disappointed. Overhead we overheard a private conversation between God and a used car salesman. I copied their instincts down on the back of a supermarket receipt. I instructed myself to see beyond the spell of tomorrow’s stench. The boys all spill their guts to the girls with a toetap of Morse code. A plainclothes elevator operator made eyes at a few secretaries on their way to an oyster bar for lunch. Mansions sank. Let’s move to a spaceship and live in outer space. I believe that champagne has the ability to laugh. The grass in my head is greener than green. Lend me a courtship and I’ll kiss the gravel in your voice. Curls of spit hung like bougainvillas in your heart, too. Just a strange urge to exchange moods with the shorter haired among us. The glass spills out cloudy moonlight. Safes break and crack themselves. I muster the hassle to hunker down once again, until the rain comes. It’s not just one thing, and it’s not just wrong, and it doesn’t belong only to you. A blown call comes down through the wires, and we all pass in the slow lane sometimes. Fly back home. An ingression. Good enough to be home. Walking home alone in the rain. Homely stakes that pay off only when you’ve left for good, and then it doesn’t matter, ugly enough for now, and the moon’s iris is open for business as long as the sailors pick up the tab. Nobody’s bad at everything. Broken windows show what remains.


The rearview was bent crookedly, and it dangled a Polaroid of two scruffy women in cowboy hats. They looked worn and tired. Dents and scuffs and scratches pocked the dash’s PVC surface. The red leather seats were shoddy, sporting wens and blebs, rips and tears stitched up like wounds with white thread. Into the brown tufted carpet fibers of the floor mat were engraved the rubber white letters: S O B. The girl liked how it felt to trace the letters with her shoe’s welt. There was a smoothness to it, something that ran counter to most of what was left of what she had to feel or know now. A crack was spiderwebbing out from a stray rock’s pit in the windshield’s glass. The radio was playing Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin by Ernest Tubb. The man driving was not paying any attention to the music, or the windshield’s crack, or the floor mat, or the girl in the passenger seat. He was giving all of his attention to the road, which snaked and whipped and skidded the tires of his pickup something rare and complex as he loosely handled the wheel from the bottom at about 7 and 4. He thumbed the radio’s knob until it quit making noise. The chassis plunked and bucked along with a steady vibration that never really quite started or stopped. He flicked the vents down, and they trickled a sickly whine as bugs kept up their constant assault, one by one splattering their bodies onto the glass. The small pickup drove on.


The smell of melted plastic bags, dried nacho cheese dip, a few burnt-out scented candles (of the Cire Trudon variety: tuberose and orange blossom), day-old cereal mush (Frosted Flakes gone soggy in sour milk), wood rot, rancid beef in crusted stiff noodles, a whiff of mildew and musk, mush-imploded apples, old board games, a trashcan overflowing with snot-caked wads of toilet paper. I move with a pebbled texture. It’s like those building-facade squares carved beneath tinted yellow-orange windows you’d see in a lot of 70s-style architecture. That’s really the only way to describe it. I’m moving gingerly. I’m sliding here and there and being slick about my motion. It’s grainy though, as I’ve said, and I’m doing it out of respect for the living. The pungent sting of foot odor: a thick, cheesy vinegar-- almost ammonia-like. Creeping around, but doing it smoothly, as the task requires, careful not to disturb the contents or occupants of the place. Telling time by the quality of the shadows smothering the kitchen wall where grease splats and oil marks abound, pocking the painted-over-too-many-times surface like a Mark Tobey. Listening is also essential here, so I am trying to hear. It’s not as quiet as I would’ve expected. Hoses going somewhere, a sizzle in the wires outside, pattering feet skipping by on the sidewalk too, and in here it’s rumblings from above. Somebody upstairs with a dog that likes to scamper back and forth, trapped in a small studio apartment. Juice containers popping in the fridge. I am kidding myself still that I can do this. It’s my battle against ennui, drowsiness, lack of motivation. My feet will not shuffle; they will smoothly slide instead of skid. The hallway’s carpet’s gray-pink, neat, tiny, hard spirals littered with fingernail clippings, crumbs, dust. I scramble up against the wall there. I try to blend in, make myself a one-dimensional shadow, a thin ghost who does not really exist; not here; not this here where I am. It doesn’t work. I am going. I am going. Nowhere. Nowhere. Look. This is my expression. I am wearing it. I am losing it. I am standing here in what’s left of myself. Worn away. And out. Look. Look away. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow’s still today. Still. Sometimes it’s more suitable to be clever than wise.


The leaves of the potted plants, ferns perhaps, were fluttering in a slight breeze coming through the propped-open door of the Chinese restaurant. Henry was dining alone there. He was sipping his tea, poking at a piece of soy sauce-soaked broccoli with one chopstick, and staring absently at nothing with his head slightly cocked to the side like somebody in the throes of deep concentration or study. But Henry wasn’t thinking about anything. He was just staring. The waitress swooshed by delivering dumplings to another table where two violently old men were lunching. A certain character of puce was tasseling from the table edge in a deliberate swirl, and the chairs, which were a stiff violet and hearty, reflected skips and horns of light from their silver legs. Corncob yellows were pestering the grease and shoe scuff of the floor’s morganite pink ceramic tiles in splintering arrays of dyadic clumps and lilt-bent streaks. Settling into one of the potted plant’s dirt was a very large fly, which was almost the size of a june bug, and Henry watched it bounding about, its wings’ sound an electric motor’s pule. Barely audible, Henry mumbled not quite to himself, "Everything about my life is humdrum." This thought was shortly scuttled, tossed into the deep airy place he’d carved out of his soul to bury such things. He rubbed a hand over his flattop, thinking of how it had a similar texture to a toothbrush’s soft bristles, thinking this and then not thinking it, again, and just intuiting it, the thinking of it, in a way that didn’t involve thought, which process almost guaranteed more thoughts to come that would help him think his way out of this and start not thinking once again, therein producing more thoughts and thoughts about those thoughts delivering unto him ways to hold off thinking for what he now could conceive of as being a thoughtless state, though such a state would doubtless be something he’d be contemplating while he was in it, as if spying it from the outside of his brain; the impossibility of which would tangle and grind his thought patterns to a fine dust of dullness.

A crab in a fish tank at the back of the place was up on its hind legs, dancing and waving its claws to the x-mas music cranking out over the restaurant’s speakers. Henry was sitting there (one of three persons eating at the establishment), now sipping some tea (jasmine green) and staring at the pictures of birds, winged emperors, and the thin spindling-out tree branches on the wall next to him. Across the way was a wall all of mirrors, which was smudged up high, strangely enough, and he wondered how somebody’d got up there to smudge it. Henry thought about how the owner of the place was a slick type. The guy must’ve really thought he was foxy. He had white hair and a big pink smile, a well-ironed stiff-collared button-down white shirt, pressed black pants, pointy bowling ball-black shined shoes. He knew what he was doing. He took orders and bossed people around. It wasn’t a bad gig. Henry was not slick or foxy. He thought of himself as being, well, humdrum and lazy.

“There must be certain restrictions on freedom lest people become too free and therefore unable to make decisions which paradoxically will leave them less free. Nobody wants to be forced to do anything, but also, it turns out, they wouldn’t want to be forced to make a decision on what it is they want to be free to do, which inversely affects they ways in which they’d opt to be free, mainly from or of, whatever it is they’ve now got way too much freedom, and too many ways, to choose.”

He wasn’t exactly speaking. More like puffing words softly, to nobody. His tongue lumpy and thick, expression blank, eyes like saucers. Everything in his persona was deliberate, done only after much forethought about the matter; even the tilt of his head was planned meticulously in advance. Struggles ensued with shelving items one at a time, in the orderly way he did it.

“Most people want to be liked so much by others that they overdo it, this act they put on to make others like them, and therefore are always disappointed in who they are, this “self” that they put on like a clown suit, around other people. It’s almost like they have to lie to themselves that they’re not doing this in order to trick themselves into being okay with doing it, as if that thing they become around others is really just an extension of who they really are on the inside, when in reality, if they really noodled about it, they’d see that this is most absurdly not the case.”

The tiles on the ceiling were keeping Henry entertained enough. There were red mazes inside of blue and yellow circles, and some intaglioed fancy stuff glittering like rhinestones. He hadn’t been able to find a newspaper available for purchase nearby, so had been reduced to this feeble state of staring at the objects around him while he attempted to stab the broccoli and lift fried rice to his mouth: a forest of hardback chairs growing wild around the plates and napkined chopsticks of empty tables, fish tanks of thick-lipped fish producing burp-like gurgles, a dusty old fan teetering on its last legs back and forth, a waitress scribbling numbers in Sudoku squares by the back desk, the thick maroon hair of dust-deviled rugs covering various oval spots on the floor.

Gushed to a glaze’s spasm, almost bent to shape, there, and so he burped a change into the guilloche of plasmal considerings lured to an understanding that was hedged at best (he knew it; like always). The situation worried itself out, and Henry, who was still engaged in a fencing duel with the épée-less broccoli, now was, for some reason that eluded his understanding and powers of explanation, imagining his brain as a Jack-in-the-Pulpit producing poisonous thoughts for berries, all enclosed in a spathe of tedium browning towards worry. He couldn’t stop eating the berries.


“If I had the chops to like guess at what was porridging up in that head of hers there, well, that’d take a better kind of guy than I’ve ever been willing to be. That’s not, well, that’s not saying that, like, I don’t care or have a inkling to it as well, but, or, well, if I could like count on my instincts for things of this nature it’d, well, it’d make a clown out of my emotional being, that who-it-is that gets to tell me that who-I-am for the time I’m allotted here for being this person that I guess I’ve sort of like grown into being. That guy? This guy? He’s an asshole. He’s a pussy.”


The days carried sun along with them for bit, shopping around for decisions with a basket of leaves and migraines toted too for what representationally at least could be called living, or would be if it weren’t for marginal stakes in the blurted suddenness of things. Why weren’t more people capable of showing love to each other? It wasn’t bad. It was this longitudinal error in the murky loot of what wasn’t being stashed or stowed away for days less bright and burgeoning as this one that seemed to heft the tragedy of closeness and arranged (though borrowed) togetherness of the lasting (for spurts) sort. Oracles told bees to shut the hell up and get on with honeymaking. A red and gold plaid suit was rended to shreds by two line cooks who were having an argument over who’d make a better Best Man for one of their buddy’s wedding. Mist was all over the place in the mornings. Strange moods were occurring over breakfast. People began taking longer showers. Phones rang only twice before triggering to voicemail. Conceiving of other people apart from one’s own perspective of who those people were became ordinary. Politeness fadded through various styles and phases. Awaysickness dumped childishness like rubble from a CAT excavator’s claw. More chumps; less change. Walls of ketchup-red. A man leaning against his bicycle which was leaning against a cement wall told a cop, “The rhetorical device of telling somebody, ‘Don’t take this personally,’ rarely means that, and in fact usually means the exact opposite.” The cop, whose mother had been The Bearded Lady in a circus sideshow, was not offended at all. Disappearing into one’s own sloth, carreled in lazy filth, not reading, unable to dial the phone, customarily deadened to the world, liable for wasting the day’s light, all accounts unbalanced. Two-night stands went on for a week, and sleeping was no longer an option. Trouble-shoot through an inevitable happenstance, with small talk and unaccountability and a freedom to be wrong more.


Calamity Jane, the Heroine Of The Plains. That’s what was going on in her head. She was singing it. In her head. Singsong. That would describe it. The rhyme helped. It swam undulant through her mishmashed thoughts, shredding tumbling breakers of thoughtless foam, and she skimmed over the surface of the opaque, aquamarine-tinted glass of a memory that was willing itself up from a muffled roar stowed somewhere indistinct, lost, and closer than comfortable all at once. She was nauseated. Not nauseous. She knew the difference. It wasn’t what made you sick to your stomach; it was the feeling of being sick to your stomach. It didn’t do any good though. Knowing things like this. It wouldn’t help that horrible feeling to go away. It’d stay stuck in her gut no matter what she called it. She started humming the song aloud, or maybe it was more like muttering the song, just a tiny light drawl of a voice barely above a cantor-like whisper. Calamity Jane, come heal my pain. It was almost a canticle. Something to soothe her, to make the darkness a tad more light, a temporary joist to keep disaster’s ceiling from crumbling, allowing the soot and scattered mess of her temblored past to come raining down on her as she lay lost in the minutiae, the unalterable fact of being aware of the smallest precise details of every last thing happening around her, even in the spheres of dust molecules that could be like galaxy-sized things to some creatures, for all she knew, and didn’t know for that matter, about such less-than-microscopic events. Something in the realms of M-theory, perhaps, might mitigate the current situation allusively peening around the inside of her skull, tinged, as it were, with the dust of forgotten moments like the gaps made by fallen or somehow disintegrated sections of a bridge, a crossing she wasn’t quite prepared to make anyhow, like this, shaky and uncertain, though one it seemed as if she were always now in a constant state of preparing for, if that made any sense. Come steal away the rain, Calamity Jane.

They both were born on the same day, Beltane, and also it was something in the cognomen that made her identify with this lady sharpshooter of the Wild West who may or may not have been romantically involved with Wild Bill Hickok at some point just before he became a decedent one fateful night at a poker game in Deadwood, S Dakota. It had something to do with Jane’s homeliness, an aspect of her character that was dirty, tawdry even, the rough and tumble sort, if you will, and it was all packaged in a tidy carefully cultivated persona of a tomboyish scrapper who wouldn’t back down to any old anybody ever. It made her happy to hold Miss Calamity, or at least the idea of who this lady might have been, in her thoughts. She thought of Calamity Jane as a crusader for wildness and freedom, and against slogging through the rote banausic day-to-day doings of life. Everything about her was heroic and large on the grandest scale, reigning across the planes, Calamity Jane, almost in a cartoonish way, to the girl, she rode through the country in search of adventure, kind of how the girl envisioned herself, a modern-day adventurer, saddled to a dream, bucking trends and spurning conformity, hopping trains and hitchhiking, leaving a trail of wrecked lives in her path; though hers, at times, included in the wake too--of being wrecked, that is.

A speed bump or pothole, something to disturb the delicate balance between awareness and that away feeling she’d get that meant she wasn’t quite part and parcel of this body, a renter and not an owner, and which she’d think of as “hovering”--such a state that was rare and unique and that she never wanted to think about too deeply lest it fall apart and never return. It was like those times during Social Studies when her head felt limp and light, and she’d nod off at her desk, chin on the glazed fake-wood surface, hair pulled over her face, a carefully placed elbow set to impede the teacher’s sight and make it seem, at a glance, as if the girl were taking studious notes with her head very close to the open notebook next to it. It was as alone and as safe as she could ever remember feeling, outside of everything, the teacher’s voice just a blur like in The Peanuts cartoons, all the pencil-on-paper scratchings and scrunchy movements of kids fidgeting around in their desks, the purr and drift of the air conditioner, the feel of the institutional fluorescents glaring from above with a slight buzz and hum that was in some strange eerie way comforting. The girl took great pleasure in being able to return to this state, though it was becoming more difficult now to make the transition, as if the further she got from it the more abstruse and hard to connect with it became. Well, it seemed, now that she’d re-emerged into wakefulness, that they were in the bumpy rattling process of being shepherded through a carwash. The splash of water from sprinklers, the thwack of rotating robotic arms brushing the windows, foaming and soapy, as the swoosh of the mitter patters by, the obstreperous grind of the conveyor track below squeezing the wheels, and the surprise plunk of the high-pressure nozzles’ spray. It was all rather like being thrashed awake in the sudden throes of the pandemonium of a war zone. The girl didn’t feel well.


I would walk around then wondering constantly about what I should be doing in my adult life. What was being an adult? What should an adult be doing with his time? I had no idea what it felt like to conceive of myself as an adult; I’d never seen myself in this way: as a grownup, a responsible citizen, a person who was a working part or cog in the valued estimate of adult society. I was more of a malfunctioning child, or had a childish attitude at least, and the general conception of my worldview could be summed up as being juvenile and abstractly vague. I felt what I did had little effect on who I was, or maybe it was more like how I was seen by others was of more concern to me than the way, or how, I saw myself. Everything about the way I was living was unsustainable: working just enough to make rent, using safety pins to hold my clothes together, stringing along girls in ways I knew wouldn’t make them last long, and drinking heavily almost every night and a lot of the days too. None of it would last. I didn’t care. At least not enough to make any decision that was capable of changing anything about the way I was floundering through life. Just gambling along wherever chance might take me. That’s all I let myself be capable of, and being severely underslept and hungover most of the time didn’t help my prospects of having even the most meager amount of energy to do anything useful with myself. I just wanted to crawl back into the womb, warm and cozy and safe, and stay there gorging on junk food, bathed in the light of TV. Everything was beyond my control.

I’d often find myself lazing on a bench on afternoons when the weather held some warmth in it still. The afternoons almost killed me most days, and I tried to sleep them away as a bloated orange sun exacerbated my self-absorbed and enervated condition. They’d come on slow and burn away any ambition I might still have to do something with myself, which I had very little of anyway, and I’d get to feeling that life-deadening malaise that pins your soul to the ground until you’re forced to give up, to give in, and nothing you could ever do seems to matter at all. You’re free to do whatever you want but it’s just that you don’t want to, and you maybe are too free in this sense, in that all’s allowed yet nothing ever happens.

Being the kind of guy who’d break up a marriage? No. No way. That wasn’t going to be me. With my expired credit card and my heart with rue laden. I hadn’t even mastered the art of bagging groceries. There were lessons to be learned, sure, but was I going to get anything out of that? No. The vultures were circling.


“There can’t be quality enhancements at this stage. We craft these fuckers from snowmelt. Give ‘em the old crush and weld, that’s ‘bout it. Nothing special. We understand lasting. We know what it means to scratch livings out from the rusted clunk of dreadful experiences. Believe me. It’s taken into account. Immediate results. Besting you at it still. Sliding along on the slubbed silk of it. We pay attention to what we want to pay attention to. That’s our meager conception of it. Turn the channel, you know? Turn the volume up. Go ahead. Weed out some umbrella-sedge. Give a rat’s ass. Why not?”


“You’ve got a bad case of l'esprit de l'escalier, huh? I can tell.”

His hands were not being kept to himself.

“Lest we forget…”

The girl strummed the air vents in the dashboard with a few fingers. If she did it fast enough it sounded like baseball cards in the spokes of a bicycle, like she used to do, she used to, do.

“Give up.” His smile was like something etched into hard plastic, something permanent and completely devoid of emotion. “And the dust gathers…”

Her eyes shaped the swerve of the road, the white dashes streaming by, blurred and streaking into each other, and the monster-head polygonals of the road signs and the clear white letters on big flat rectangles of green and the next-gas-forty-miles and the mile-counters like hogtied scarecrows, and she heard the hushed hustle of the wind speaking to closed windows as she bit a big-knuckled finger harder than she’d ever bit anything.

The man screamed like a little girl. It made the girl laugh. The man slapped his hand around and screamed and called her all the usual, ordinary, and to-be-expected names the situation called for. ‘Originality is sorely lacking in this individual,’ thought the girl.

“Young love. I make you out to be indifferent, but I’m a bullshit machine.” The man was crying. “I was paying attention and distracted at the same time. You didn’t notice. You never notice. I could immolate over here and you’d just keep going about your business. Look, we’ve got starts, stoppings too, I guess, and then there’s all that stuff stuffed in the midst of things. It’s time now that we took a leap in there and started flailing around in it, together. Don’t you think? From these shores. From this perspective. This seeing. Well, don’t you? Don’t you ever, think?”

The girl rolled the window down all the way. She stuck her head outside. The stars were getting all over everything up in the sky’s sludge, runny slugs of sparkle and dipped flashes whirlpooling into and out of and all around each other, blips and beeps gone pulsatilla in fast, tight circles, without edges or separation, more like a thousand tiny stirrings in a vast pool of mud, sight’s tremolo on the grandest of scales. They were all that mattered, and her eyes gushed towards tears in the gusty assault on her face as she spun her head and looked directly up, her hair gone Bride-Of-Frankenstein wild to the side. Nothing else was happening. This was all there was. There were no hands on her legs or middle, nothing pulling her back inside, no panicked hook and weave of the vehicle she was now hanging almost all the way out of, but for something holding her, gripping her as tight as it could, hands, a body in there, a thing, in there, a place that wasn’t warm or safe at all, not like out here, in the wind, something vibrant in the sky, in the stars, out here, alone. No. She’d just stay here. She’d just stay. It wasn’t hard at all. ‘I have this,’ she thought. ‘This is what I have.’ It rattled around like a crushed beer can in her head.