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.