Sunday, January 6, 2013

a mere stretch of words

           Any harebrained son-of-a-bitch knows that you can’t mix acid with cocaine. It’s a one-way ticket to Vegetable Town. Nobody knows the horror I see. Nobody knows the sorrow. That’s where Charles comes in. Drafty, out the backdoor, and he picks up a napkin, wipes his mouth, plops down in a lawn chair and yawns. It is best, one finds, to be subtle in the sorting of impersonal affairs, and Charles is funnier than most. Cigarettes that last for a few centuries. The taxi’s arriving close to eight. Get yourself the best of what’s waiting on the chiffonier for your taking, at least until the mice take over. Charles ain’t in charge of a damn thing.

            and when the sky was opened…
            New Year’s Eve at an old folk’s home with a three-piece band and tinsel and glitter on all the hats, a 78-year-old piano player, champagne sprayed on the ceiling fan, and I’m left staring at it all through a glass of beer. A powerful long spell of spilling my guts. Something to crush that car that’s alarm’s going off all hours. Never to keen on peaches. Nobody brings Diet Coke into my house and lives to tell about it. A talent for putting words into the mouths of others. She uses the tiniest spoons to scoop up pomegranate seeds. It is a lead that’s never followed. A watch forever being wound. Cram the hollow of the barest creek with suffering reeds. A night for a front porch, or sleep. Nothing else. A terrific way to not be shown the way, again. Blessed with courageous overtones, baby. It all starts with bad directions to nowhere, and then we get stiffed in the midst of a tantrum over spilled rum. It’s outrageous. If it could be. Nobody checks the tire pressure when all’s done and not said. Beer brained and bratty, the ruin of the shakes gets me enough exercise. A little dab behind the ears will do. Get old and get dead already. Shit. The window’s a louse, and we’re all lousy with looking. The noise the garbage disposal makes is too ordinary. We get hunted, and we get brave. The crummiest napkin holder in a little café. Empty bottles in the chandelier. A coincidence of partaking’s spell. Butter the cost with bland horror. It might make a believer out of truth, a hurt chased from a penny’s shine. We’d all do better just to seethe and moan under our breath. All dressed down with everywhere to go. Pawned substance and dining with a horse for the time being, but it’s all a shabby substitute for your consideration. A well-pressed personality to go along with what’s common. Permanently echoed in resentment’s shadow, it calls dibs on debilitating structures of faring a bit more than well. We get cries of hallelujah stirred in our coffee. We get tossed from rooftops. The tenement’s horror is cut from duller cloth than this. The price of justice loses its value in the parade of love, and we get miffed, and we grow stale. An infinity from cosmetics. And the record always skips on my favorite song. The gamblers have all retired to your white house. Check your girls at the curb. We all need IVs at this time of the night. The holes in my clothes show it all. Never sleeping at all. Candy will be the death of me. There’s nothing so cheap as a day on the barroom floor. We walk in the corrosive shadows of today’s lilt and spin. Don’t deadpan the ways we take to the cruel and the hard up. There’s a sipper on board for the remainder of the trail. Coolidge is on board for the duration of our departure. Take the thieves out to breakfast. We’ve all got worse things to do with our lives. The shipyard’s lullaby. The tin can’s last call. The goodbyes are all gone. We’ve made peace with the occasional bouts of fury. Run away to a January night with me, so home, home, home we’ll never be.

            Something was pounding on my door. I went over and opened it. My landlord was standing there, a little inflatable-soul guy with greasy sideburns and a bald shiny dome on top. His face was even more flushed than usual.
            “We’ve had complaints.”
            “Yes. It seems your neighbors are worried about these strange noises they hear at all hours coming form your place. And, frankly, there’s no call for the sort of language that…”
            “Language? What language? I speak a little Spanish and a tad of French, but…”
            “Ok. That’s enough. No need to crack wise about it.”
            “Is there supposed to be a point here that I’m missing?”
            “Listen, Dipshit. There’s no telling what kind of sins against all that’s holy you’ve got going on in there on a nightly basis...”
            “Yes. It’s quite a show. You should stop by one night. I think you’d like it.”
             “…But if you think I’m just going to sit idly by while you make a massacre of this building’s policies, well…”
            “Let me guess. I’ve got another thing coming.”
            He just stood there, bristling. I could smell raw egg yolk.
            “Well, yes. See here, sir. I have absolutely no idea what any of these complaints have to do with. I am hardly in my apartment at night, these days, or nights, as it were. Well, you see. I don’t make a peep most of the time, well except when I’m performing my --please excuse my coprolalia here, but-- my bathroom duties, as it were.”
            “Oh, Lord.”
            “Just…just keep it down, will you? I can’t…I…”
            He kept mumbling after that for a bit, but I couldn’t make sense of it. I closed my door. Things were immediately much better.
            I wanted out. But there was nowhere to go. I stayed in. I thought, ‘Yes. Charles on the back porch. A whole sea gaze of a sort to it. Sure. Why the heaven not?’           
            My stomach clutched. I thought about how the human ear can immediately distinguish between the different sound that hot water makes compared to cold. It got me less than nowhere. Time is that I got to be hungry for another meal, to go cheap and wine-dark into the murk and hustle of it. Time was, and then it is just standing or waiting to sit.
            Shapes had stopped making sense in 3-dimensional space. For me this wasn’t quite as disturbing as it should have been, and this, in itself, was disturbing. My psyche had jumped ship. In fact, all of my temporal relations with the events and material things around me had gone overboard. It was all flickering images of stickmen climbing stairs on the wooden railings, the shadows on the sidewalls’ paneling like a stalled movie projector cranking away. I thought a steamship was running the show. Everything seemed rigged, a plot against my thoughts, and my eyelids were flashing instead of blinking. There was a steady rapid shaking to my head that I couldn’t stop. My eyebrows were existing in outer space, and having a fine time of it without my face around to hold them back. The word “Geronimo” leapt from the roof. My cigarette was the only thing that made sense, though the crooked, gnarled fingers holding it up like a miniature javelin did not belong to me, and for some reason I was holding tight to the idea that they actually belonged to a clown dressed in a pinstripe suit who was clinging to the giant yellow umbrella that was the sky.
            Clouds were just unwound balls of string. The stickman was clattering his shifty way across the railings with long quick strides. I didn’t like it, but there was nothing to be done about it. My eyes wouldn’t adjust to anything. A flurry of images decked themselves out with cookie-cutter agility and bashed here and there around the circumference of my skull, and I just kept trying to stare at that damn cigarette that seemed light years away from me between the thin fingers of that bizarre clown, whom I could feel the presence of more than actually see.
            About a year later I inhaled a drag of the cigarette. The smoke took a few days to go down, and I exhaled sometime that summer, though it felt like fall, and for all I could figure it must’ve been at least a year later, and I started to wonder if my two friends who’d filled my head with this massive overdose of psychedelic mushrooms still lived in the house of which I was currently residing on the back porch. It had been so long since I’d seen them—years. Would there be somebody else living there now if I tried to go back inside? Had they changed the locks? Would they have any cookies?
             It wasn’t easy to make a decision about anything. More thoughts kept fleeing, and then a thousand more would get ushered on in with a few bats and oars and Adam and Eve on a log too. “Wreck ‘em,” I thought, or perhaps said. Then I concentrated my efforts on reading something I’d long been putting off reading, though long could’ve been nothing at all under these circumstances. Whatever way you put it, here or there it went: 
            Bobby Dylan’s rough draft of “Iphigenia in Aulis or: She Born Too Late and Soon, Son”
            She’s got an egg timer in her heart, screaming yes like she’s at the end of Ulysses. If the sky’s spanked with roses during an eclipse. There’s an egg timer, you see, where her heart should be. It ticks away the way she was. Nobody asks please. And so we’re left honey-less and all out of smell. Just jam with no toast. Just eggs fried in the shell. The cake’s taking strike three while she screams sad anniversaries for everyone. Flunked a course in courting fireflies, and there aren’t any mathematics left in the trees. She’s planning a coup of the bus lines. She’s cussing and sashaying in Vista Vision and snapping along to Conway Twitty. We hung the marionettes from a chandelier with their own strings. Questioning the bass from my voice, she bares girlish teeth and sweeps the covers to her side. Elvis sings The Ramones. We voilà our own cartoons in souped-up bubbles. We’ve got concrete lips that whistle Hogan’s Heroes. Just say stuff like, “Glad to not know you,” and, “Why you oughta examine your flies.” She dreams The Lawrence Welk Show to life as the creeps all gather outside the plate glass, because nobody dies counting railroad ties in the dark anymore. We are more commonplace than ever. Get the spatula from the bucket of frosting and spread good news all over the tiles. There’s no deft left in sentimental pleas. We believe that good wrenches the spit from pirates of privacy, self evidently. We walk halfway through the alphabet just to hail taxis in the wind and the rain. She sends me postcards from the torn edges of The Orient, never tracked or thumbed or rode lonely without. She writes notes on pages ripped from books of bees and glues them inside of Gideon bibles. A bit of slap’s in her dash, still. Oh, and the barometer of flush is fair in her footsteps. Pigeons wing and flutter away from it all like nicknames for marbles, out of the red-white-blue, catching buses and missing the point. We call each other lucky and bake sardine pie for lunch. We call each other home. I’m just a broken string on her guitar, a parachuted little green army man launched into the cobalt of her sky, a tiny turn still left in the squeal of her heels, the last crumbled cigarette in her vest pocket, a gray hair on her little toe. But she’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it ticks off what’s left of us until she lets it out. But she’s too tough for that, way too tough for that. Because, well, she’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it’s made of fluff and crumbs and copper medals and boxing gloves. She’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it’s good company for pancake chefs. She’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it is dazed and rainy and bowlegged and it dances away the moon. She’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it never sleeps. She’s got an egg timer in her heart. And it’s almost done singing, a little. While we sleep for ages. Just like us. An egg timer in her heart. Ticking and steady and true and alive. Blundering in the daylight. An egg timer in her heart. Almost like me. Almost, just like me.
            Sometimes you receive things. You don’t understand much. That about does it.

            “Dear Sirs,                                   
            “We are honored that you considered our publication worthy to receive your writing, we thank you for the opportunity to read your work, and we regret that we are unable to publish it at this time. Please consider the numerical reality: that for each issue, we are able to publish much less than one percent of the submissions we receive.

            “This email goes to a category of writers we will be inviting to resubmit, whether your submission was not accepted or even if it was withdrawn. Soon you will receive another email inviting you to submit different work for the next issue, so please watch for that. We wish you the very best of luck, we hope you will keep in touch, and we hope that we may continue to read each other.

            “Ever yours,
            “Editor In Residence of ****** Magazine”

             Dear Shit For Brains,

            I breathe in this way. I sigh like this. I open my eyes and take the temperature of loss. Shadows are great. I’m sure they fall all the time.
            Never Yours,
            Hanky Panky Mancini