Sunday, September 29, 2013

alibis in the night

            “That’s how you don’t do it: with a check-swing temperament and roadblock courage. Anyway, what color are they dyeing the American dream these days?”
            “Dove gray and bubblegum.”
            “Play Scuttle with me.”
            “Return ticket’s lost in my mailbox. Sorry. I try not to worship in this aura.”
            “Add me to your enemies group.”
            “Will not do.”
            “Tell me to stop bothering myself.”
            “Really, in the bowery depths of civilian life we instill it best, this hard-up courtshipping, with candy-happy apples.”  
            “Lay it off me, girly.”
            “For that matter, occupational hazards aside, I am Radio Man; hear me advertise.”
            “Like that’d be worse, or better if not, for the ratings.”

            We were doing some serious sorrow drowning down by the piers. The weather wasn’t good enough for us. Nothing matched. So take this here blue herring and paint it red. It doesn’t cost little to be down. And we were.
            The bottles kept getting empty. The lights got dimmed. In the monumental graveness of silence we passed what was left of our time.
            “Lord knows, and doesn’t.”
            “To the ransacked. To the harborers of minced words. To cheat-dwindled byproducts of sour moods. To Tuesdays.”  
             We had a cackle or three in the chancy harmony of that blue-laced chugging of regret that had us caught up. It was a long sentence. But we grew used to it.
            “Who’s this we?”
            “Shadows that don’t dance.”
            “Wait until I care. Go right on ahead. Keep waiting.”
            “And then what? Try to market the shrubbery, the lopped-off greenery of yourself? That stuff?”
            “Sure, and then some.”
            “Well, remember. You’ve got to get out early or there’s really nothing left.”
            “Say goodbye. Reminisce without me. The hollering’s taking up too much space here.”
            “Pounce and pour. Juke and defend. Borrow and shape. Sure. Sure. It’s another something. One more something.”
            “Push your chair in, jerk. Push back or away. See what I care, or don’t.”
            “Like writing: Dear ______, is there anyway to stop constantly seeking the approval of others?”
            “Something akin to it.”
            “And, of course, we’ve still got All Those Follies Girls.”
            “In the sure lust of luck, in the sweetest roll and drool, we camp in the light of the spots. You should’ve been a silent movie star. Let the dresses wear you. The ad campaign has been surgically removed to make room for drowsiness and cheek. The pool hall in your stomach is touched up with chalk. Too late to run. Staged or not. Holy and then some. Pick the ruled-out to be bent for the likes of. I only miss you every night. Tarnation. To the spirits of the bathwater.”
            “Bravo, motherfucker. Bravo.”
            The characters cast as us had worn the hardiest smiles. The stakes were callously manipulated by cast-iron scalpers of hugs. Being at a dim juncture in tessellation’s cure, we hid behind Victorian nudes and laughed at our past weeping. A cover of ebon carved out a ditch for us to lie in, and we took our licks, shy of the world beyond the one we’d crafted out of trenches and waking up alone. We thought of more appellations for poison.     

            “To the least called-on, the cleverer of the cloudy hearted, and the uppercutters of swung moods. To riled boasters of indifference. To in-the-eyes lookers. To derailment of the senses and chanced horror.”  
            “Resting very unassured, I assure you.”
            “Conmen in the head-high grass murmuring, ‘We slough off what’s real into the mire.’ Or something not like that at all.”
            “Research done while lifting bottles, while gazing swamp-eyed through the veil of smoky dugouts, in reach and in reaction to dustier plights than our own. I’ve been unwell read for quite a spell. All these spider-less webs, and we’re all out of flies.”
             “Got to keep pulsating with that old plucky rhythm. Flutter with that tatterdemalion flag that won’t fly so often on its own. We are roadblocks of boredom and slighted purpose. The detour’s our next round of this slow-acting poison, a rough way to age and not be aware of time having gone by.”
            “Shit. We ain’t going nowhere.”
            “You can’t say that again.”
            “It’s forlorn, and unlike you. Scraped dirty off the gristle. Harassing tendencies besides, and out of turn, you’ve got to believe in nothing to rationalize the just-a-spectator aspect of it all. Still, believing in nothing is still believing something, wrong?”
            “Wrong enough, isn’t it? I’m not making thought-slurry from juxtapositioned ideas, you panjandrum of clodhopping.”
            “Well, I know folks got better things to do than pay attention to me. Still, I’ve got the leanest ways to try trying on swaggering looks of placation and courtesy. Still, I’m me and that’s all. That is all there is to it. Still. Still.”
            “To be old at liver and young at toes.”
            “Paradingly proud of my waddles toward whatever ill-concocted destiny that’s being shoved down my gullet this week. Something adamant is missing from it all-- something untoward and lucky but shot to hell with missing.”   
            “Just puttering and doddering. Nothing but doddering and puttering around.”
            “Except it’s not just accepting who we are not or could never be on multiple fronts of our personality. Because it’s us, the meek and starving, who seem to always only get the penultimate laugh, decadent in our lying around, and not feeling so free.”            
            “Is this plain speak?”
            “Strictly? No. It’s moved to be over, moving and then some. I want to be clearer in my obfuscations o’er the fields and through the damn woods already.”
            “Always through. Never into. Huh. That’s nothing.”
            “The news gets older, and we forget it being necessary to our worldview, to our sense of keeping relations satisfactory between us and the fire-escape bound who pound out there frustrations with the harsh implements of survival. The picture takers get caught with their thumbs busy, with their hearts on airplane mode, with their heads on a commercial break.”
            “Or singing, ‘Esmerelda, my darling, don’t go washing your eyes under the dim red lights in the back room of some dirty bar, beneath a portrait of Bogart, sitting next to a dead Frogger game. With penalty flags flying, a broom for your sighing after what’s only real in your head. Keep on pretending that you’re never ending, and that the moon’s orbit is yours to be glad in.’”
            “And then, ‘Garble, garble, garble,’ said Clark Garble. ‘Row this motherfucking boat to shore already.’ That’s the sort of talk that gets left behind, smashed under the present’s steamroller perhaps. For now, I’m on the lookout for cheating bequeathers and hooligan sneaks.”
            “Mark my territory with a little splash of poison.”
            “That’ll do.”
            We soaked our looks in better things than those that had always mattered. The floorboards held hostage lost names we’d never known. Our thoughts were just the music of car commercials. A phone died. 
            “A sprig of parsley for your thoughts. A dram of turmeric for your dreams.”                        
            “I know not a seam of it, it seems. Mozart compressed into a blurb for later generations to skip over.”
            “Clues that we might really exist don’t abound. I am here and also not there. Spelling it out doesn’t count.”
            “The hammers of war pound out the nails of peace. Listeners click and click but get nothing but a spinning wheel for their tiny, troubled impatience. Too much eye contact’s bad for the moral. Keep thyself hungrier, my foe.”
            “Whilst the world turneth.”
            “Ah, fuck all of that, and this too.”
            “…submitted for your lack of approval.”
            “That doesn’t do it.”
            We spoke tertiary conclusions to TV shows highlighted in TV guides. We ransacked our instincts for bad-joke telling so we could fight inconclusively with radio waves and shallow-gravers in the barroom’s scaly dimness. Everybody around us was falling apart, getting ruined by things they couldn’t even comprehend having a chance at understanding. The walls were no longer concerned with us.  

            “She got hooked on that Heisenberg stuff and ran away with the computer repair guy. So, you guess what, you guess again, and then you go ape because there’s a fruit fly in your daiquiri. Well, wash your feet in it and call it an afternoon. You know, everyone deals with their demons in their own way. The next batch is on me. I get that. I really do. But even in the moochiest and least sublime parts of you, you must know by now what is and is not at stake. Patterns of watching get taken for a flight. Don’t worry though, getting hooked is the least of our here worries here.”   
            “I don’t have time enough, and the world is all fools.” 
              “Countermand me. Go ahead. I don’t give up so hard.”
            “Clefts of try misnomered in the fermentation process of becoming sure things, of looting perfection from a mannequin’s smile. A shoo. A soft caning. Elongated spasms of revelation that bleed momentarily the monetary liquid of class and refraining. Out, out, out and into this trench’s mud that’s made of pie.”
            “Being rusty is easy. I’ll keep on getting unused to thing, if you please.”
            “I will not balance. I will not compute. I won’t be heaven-helped out or wooden on the inside. Never will come the day when they’ll say, ‘Him? He was luckier than most.’ And I do not accept pity in exchange for love. And I do not cry, ever. Georgia O’Keeffe can kiss my ass.”
            “Fomenting caution at all times, here.”
            “A wish to prove. A curtain drawn on the hereafter. Something a little more expensive to sell for less. A stopping over and a cannon’s loose call. And us? We’re here getting shelled and taking it and taking it, and we just keep taking it. It is all that is left to do.”
            “In check, pal. Keep it in check. The concourse is clear of obstructions. It is nearly dear to refrain from worrying over lumps not yet in your throat. Let’s butter our business with the addiction of distraction.”
            “On the aware side, or feigning attacks of concern. It’s of little, or perhaps none, in the end, that gets it done.”
             “All of these elevated exchanges of which I do not understand, these are the beer nuts smashed on the floor.”   
            “People get by on knowing so little. I wouldn’t bother with calibration at this point. Just keep racing that proverbial garage door going down. Pete-Rose slide under it if you must, headfirst at the last moment without a single thought or hesitation. Win at no cost. Just win.”
            “Relegated to this. To. Just. This. What a whoop of smallness, huh?”           
            “So-so levels of infiltration at this general time and/or place.”
            “We are not being recorded. Nobody is listening in to our palaver. Stridently able, as we are, the ohms of us go out requited. Nobody’s got us bugged. Our phones aren’t tapped. This conversation will not live beyond our breath.”
            “Saturated with placation. It is our duty to like and be liked. It is our cause, or mission…or perhaps just an overblown cause célèbre of our wishy-unwashed emotions duking it out on an imaginary stage in the way-way back areas of our heads. I don’t know. I get tired. My mind wanders.”
            “Lowing over bloated circumstances. Stock-market champions fleeing town with IQs lower than the thermometer on a cold winter night. Poor me. Poor you. Poor everyone.”
            “Oh. Yes. And so you could say that we have had the greediest takes on being down and lower than out. Money’s out of the picture. I swear there ain’t a face on it anymore. Only illusions brought on by the absence of purpose. A duality of shifting gears, micromanaged affairs of the heart, exit signs on our backs. The holy things about it is that you’ve just got to take it like you take it, like you’ve always done. Cast on. Motor on through it. But me? Hell, I don’t got enough socks left to make it through the week.”
            “Rat trails of trying give us away every time. I almost mistook my own face for another’s. It was on a cruel, soft summer day, just after some light rain, and I was loping across a street at an unsteady clip, and even the clouds above were passing me by, and the parking meters all looked like grave markers, and the felt like a stranger chasing down these odd ideas about what it was to be me. Such a thin thread of seeing that holds sanity together. And the yield? I ran into a mailbox.”
            “Rats before your eyes. Stand-up eggs telling yolks.”  
            “Would you be nicer to me if I were famous?”
            “I’ve got these dreams, you see? So many clichés, so much time.”
            “I don’t. By the way, looks are everything.”
            “I figured as much. Do good out of season, and then ‘I Love Coca-Cola’ rain downs from the sky, just like rainwater soup for the sinister.”
            “We get made. We break, internally. There is nothing right or wrong. In technology’s flashbulb pop we exist in history’s nanosecond for the briefest of moments before it all explodes, and then back to darkness it all goes. I’m all for giving down and taking up. Let’s collaborate on touchstones of sensitivity, induce hearts to spring, inch past the reaping of mass appeal, and style our mistakes in wonder with liquid crystal eyes and truncated appetites.”
            “Or we could just tie our shoes together and run for it.”
            “This stuff won’t kill us. Let’s try on the moods of others. Let’s make disarray out of complications that probably won’t ever arise. This stuff? This stuff? This stuff. That’s right. That’s all it takes. Envelop yourself with the life of another. Become enmeshed in something outside of you.”
            “Irresponsible conclusions reached under the table, behind the bar, or conniving undertaken with drink in hand. I might be freshly smacked out of my mind, but the worst of it is…the worst of it is how little it matters.”
            “There ain’t a difference twixt sanity and the splotchy crayon-colored light of neon beer signs. The burglar alarms in my head are going off. Intruder! Stop!”
            “Stop it.”
            “There’s plenty less where that didn’t come from. So. So. The corner boys all get drowned, corners cut, and we make balloons for them that’ll never float any of it away. It’s all just so damn…so damn sad.”
            “Start over again, and then stop.”
            “The money keeps us content and just unhappy enough to not try. But who’s holding the tickets to the rainy-day events of my loss and hurt? There are no checks written on resentment that my gut won’t cash. Do the people I miss ever miss me back? Morning light washes it all out, and this is what we’ve got left. This? This? It’s all a damn shame. Hell. I mean, shit. Showering’s for the dogs.”     
            “I’m sold. I’m out.”
            “There you go. Or don’t. I’ve given up caring for the month.”
            “That’s more not like it.”
            “Pointless, all of this. Fill my cup up until it overflows, and then just keep filling it and filling it. There is nothing left to do. There is nothing, and that’s pretty okay by me.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

For Keeps

             Having a kid will really change you. I tell you. This kid, he asks me the other day, “If less is more, does that mean fewer is greater?” This kid, he’s a real kick in the seat, let me tell you. Not paranoid at all or anything. Like a dusky stranger in Farewell Land, I guess. Shoot the genius who forgot to grow up, as usual. Steer him clear of the chore wheel, though. Give him a cane and a rifle, maybe a chess set. He doesn’t ever use the phone. But in the not-so-cruel and usual ways he’ll get going at it, well, there could’ve been something to hide. But, like I said, I’m a changed man now, so forget it. That kid’s got it made.
             He points to things and asks about them. He sings nonsense stuff. Right away, I can tell. The trees aren’t moving like they used to. Streets are blind to it too. But what’d you figure with a kid like that? I tell him, “Life is just socks and underwear, Kiddo. Wash ‘em every week.” There are dinosaur shapes in the flowers.
            This kid, he makes me wonder about who it is I’m always pretending to be. A cartwheel of gesturing and posing, looks and likes, the small stuff tucked stiffly into my trousers. The jokes I’ll never make come back to haunt me. And this kid? He worships all the sidewalks I’ve ever trod. It’s these things that get you. I spend too much of my time tied up in nonsense as it is. A muskox has been smoking all of my cigarettes. Nothing here, with this kid, is included in the price of purchase. There are mislabeled discounts in the furniture of our teak surroundings. 
            Having a kid around, that makes you think. You start to wonder about steady conflicts, arisen tensions, baffled strains of contrariness, lost avocadoes-- the real how-to of getting by. This kid I got, he wears safety pins in his shoes; he chews leather strips and spits the greasy black juice into a sippy cup. I want to start him on light beer, almonds, maybe get him to try tomato-flavored gum. But this kid, he’s dead set on being a thorn in my eye. He’s resilient about not being set in my ways. He’s got his own ways that he’s trying on for size. He puts potatoes in the fridge and then eats them like apples. He uses lariats as belts, this kid. He drawls deep like John Wayne, almost purring stuff like, “I say riata. You say reata.” What’re you going to do with a kid like that? Keep him, I guess.
            This kid, he taught himself how to sing and ride a bike. He swings husky and elated through my tossed indignation. Me? I throw most of our apples out the window in the general direction of passing cop cars from the safety of the bedroom. I hit the lights and lie low. The kid comes in, though, and ruins everything. I tell him, “Hey kid! Douse those lights already!” He just spins and spins on his toes. Sometimes he bows deeply at me when he’s done. His hair stands up like thousands of blowzy people singing the national anthem. He’s taken to wearing the living room curtains as a cape. I can’t run this show anymore.
            I’ve got these dreams of sewing neckties together to make dresses. The dream’s volume is all the way down, but not muted. In the dreams I’ll talk to myself, say stuff like, “Hearing things is better than hearing nothing.” One morning I woke to discover a giant fish tank at the foot of my bed. I do not own a single fish.
            This kid, his heart squishes like sushi in the afternoons while I make sunlight bend with my mouth mirror. Sometimes he pretends to be enjoying my company. I’m glad we’ve still got these things. I’ve given up bathing. I’ve started listening to the noise between radio stations and constructing laminated robots from discarded vegetable boxes. I wear purple derbies in the glow of the TV. This kid gazes at me with gummy eyes. I can take it and I can’t. I tell him, “Your body makes cholesterol while you sleep.” He blinks and toes the carpet edge between rooms, mumbling, “Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think.”
             I’ll tell you something else. And there’s a reason for it, though I don’t think you’ll understand it. But, this is the thing: I tell the kid something like, “Some screwball once said, ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.’” And this kid, well, this kid, he starts shuddering. He makes a zygomatic mistake-- something wriggling and supple. A twinge. A twitch. A bunching bordering on bundling of efferent and afferent nerves. I don’t have the proper balance to come through with anything else. This kid’s out for structure, or some sort of death to it, maybe.
            Doors are for being knocked on, sometimes late at night, while the kid flutters and swoons in his sleep. I think to myself, ‘As the doorknob turns.’ I go in the kid’s basement room and espy the kid all wrapped up in the throes of a luxurious tumult. Whispering loans me rainy traction to slip by on. I kneel by the kid’s Exiled-Napoleon canopy bed and duck my head below the wax-paper drapes. There are uncomfortable ramifications in the bungee springs of the felt mattress. My hands clasp velvet covers and coarse jute blankets. The kid turns but doesn’t toss. My voice trails on and off: “Remember me? I was doing headstands on the Charlie Rose show. Droopy flies just floating around that oak table. And I’m singing, remember? I’m singing, ‘Hey, Mr. Tangerine Man, sell some fruit to me.’ Charlie doesn’t care what way I sit, or don’t, in that chair. Sometimes a sidesaddle way to it, with me: feet dangling off to one side, arms behind head in the most relaxed of all poses. I had a few cigarettes on me, and played toothpick games with one of them while Charlie interrogated me. Told him things like, ‘Charlie, hey. I’ve got a $19.95 blow-up doll with a hole in her inflatable head. I’m as cosmopolitan as a cachalot. What else do you need to know?’”
            I try to give the kid something, something like, “The lesson’s not learned while people disobey traffic laws. The same things keep happening differently. Just be kind. That’s all you need to do in this world.”
            I don’t-- give it to him, that is. This kid will take it like he takes it, or leave it the same. This kid’s got sense.
            And so, we wobble this way, here-- alone and together, the kid and I-- making it all up as we go.
            And, just so you know, we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lost Postcard #11

Dear Patricia Plainsong,
            As the day rolls to a fold, and mother’s hanging the wash on the line, some foreboding leads me to ask, “Are you very sad these days after what the fire’s done?”
            This is not a question of arguing balls and strikes. It is luck’s handout. (Yes, you’d say, hand it to the scratchers of lottery tickets; they’ve got a mold to keep, and they keep it.) And this while folks like us sit here staring at Rorschach blurs in the trees, doing less than something, shuffling thoughts and stifling motivation for, well, escape. White socks and a forgiving temperament, we strain (yes, my dear, this includes me at last) to youthier flights of contemplation.  
            Famish the flies and we shall dive less deep into the wealth of our circumstances.
            Amplitudes deceive me, less than charmed on an engaging frequency, so I take truck with muskrat suppers, gorge on vole nuggets, elephant shrew stew, and rhinoceros steak. There are those eager for material gain who would have you believe I have taken an ill disposition, and that I am feckless in the defense of my daily strife. But what fires be put out but those started by the selfsame fools in the first? Though, well, I needn’t persuade you of any disquiet that may still smolder hot-coal bright in your heavy heart. For, as of late, the green grass of home is for all of us still a misstepped lunge clung to self-pity and withering endurance. Remember not to be always shaped by what shadows you. If mother taught us anything in the doomed cusp of her wilting willpower, it was this.
            Now the hours spread out instead of reeling in, and I pause happily at the interlude of calm’s shuttering, stumped and loping in place: a rare breed of insolence.
            Mother rolls her sleeves. The sunset dust settles. Somewhere somebody is frying eggs. But not for me. Consider my fingers crossed.  
            When was it that we knew how to hide our voices? Oh, but adults don’t speak to each other like this, and we go on acting like little children. As complainers we stay sturdy and corrupt, yes? Bashful as being stricken with laryngitis would make us, it isn’t ordinary to be singularly fascinated by worn, unlit neon bulbs. And yes, we are merely what our choices make us at times, and the chew and call of missing things erodes a somewhat already fabricated existence, yet we continue imagining our lives lived in other ways. In the past tense we were washed out without a worry to our name. Dreary bastards of chance, we ran past the king without any clothes. The crows didn’t want us then (not shiny enough), until early rising left us glowing towards what we should’ve guessed. Remember? It was song that went, “Make my bed only to wreck my dreams.” Something differs to the iffy lurk of lost loves still, perhaps? Would it were so.
            Beer in the afternoon. Scotch in the evening. Bourbon highballs all through the night. I am under-eating, as always, for the nights come upon me too quickly. Laminate the sky with me; I am jerry-rigged with defeat.
            The cathedral bells are tolling Luck Be A Lady. A careful gust of courage escapes me. Mother is uneven in her approach to roaches, and they seem to roam free for the most part. Somehow the breezes here do not soothe me anymore. I am too departed from the gentleness of kisses on the ear to be of any use to anyone. I do my praying on the toilet.    
            In the boxy sense of saying what’s on loop in my head until my number comes up, in that citadel of anxious decambering, shrieking in nightshirts, apprehended with a matronly sensitivity at last, I try on all the red dresses around and tiptoe past the fireplace. Do not regret the timeliness of my ways. Do not shave the recently deceased. Behave, if it is necessary. Mother is not curling her hair. The ante is forever upped. All is sapropel of memory, and we do whatever it is we must to chin-up our way to the finish line, and then past it, or over it, and then farther, and then farther still.
            Hank Mayberry Livingston III


The Trouble With Narrators (Or, Salinger's head on a platter)

Hope all is contestable. You who shudder more than most. You who dare the rafter-divers. I am not blazing any trails for no man. Wildly appropriate at all times. 

I married a girl who was in the Gestapo. It didn’t last. I didn’t know what to tell my parents. Lucky for me, people’ve got very short memories. And I’m a guy who gets his feelings hurt over the placement of a comma. Now I just sit around and stew, practicing my semaphores incase anybody ever wants me to land a plane.

Jerry was a good kid. He had manners, a way of comporting himself that made others notice, but not want to seem as if they were noticing. He’d make you clam up if it suited him, and in the forest of his charm you’d have to make do with a small campfire of unreturned sentiments. His handshake was not soon forgotten.

Be that as it might, we had good times too. Anybody’d get depressed being inside all day.

When you call the New York Times out of the blue…and they answer. It sure beats the life of the recluse. An interview here; a stroll through the post office there. Maybe brunch. I do more than most think. I fill the gaps between crowds. It is ever so lenient of me to be so unwary. I am not so cool. I am not much more than the untested soldier they dropped of at Normandy's beaches to writhe among bullets and falling bodies to his way ashore. There’s no sky up there. Nothing’s blue, now.   

How many people know that Lincoln’s mom died of milk sickness? Or that Hitler’s nephew wrote an article for Look magazine in 1938 entitled Why I Hate My Uncle? Well, there you go. If people aren’t at least a little twisted and deranged they bore me to smiles. Fleeing a bit more from it all every day. Suckers out there patrolling the sidewalks with their window-ogling souls, getting the most out of their hairdos. I am made of used coffee grounds and bent paperclips. Operations of normalcy are sleeping-in while the fluted chrome smokestack belches through another day. It is with weariness that we leave holes in the way others know us. The daily crucifixion of walking through the public’s untrained eye. Well, there you go.

The supple jade carved into the light fixtures, those dappled struts of continuity flustered with trying too hard and not often enough. A thousand dead pineapples rotting in a Bolivian dump among gaudy jewelry and tacky nylons. Over achieving in the embattled clusters, the creeping weeds of age, and overtaken in an ankle’s turn on a curbstone. Arms and legs dangling over the cool pool water as you lie prone on a diving board made just for one, the clean stink of chlorine wafting through the pitch-massed, mosquito-infested crepuscular array of your attempt at being alone. A bridge sunk, leading from nowhere to nowhere, and you go down with it for one final hurrah into the dark. You always were a sucker for cowboy hats and black leather jackets.

Check back later for less results.

Ready but not set. Gone but never going.  

Thirst gets you. It will. And it does. Why’d they turn you into a lie? It’s a cover for being more real than you’d let on. It shuts the store and closes the lights. Be a worm if you will, shoed and horned, it plays itself out; you should’ve seen me, then, I typed through it all. I still do. The sound of the keys would kill a stronger man. It is playful at best and hardshipped out to other shores at worst. We keep the sadder of them in Full Nelsons of remorse. Summer’s only brought more broken hearts. The heat only brings more ways to avoid going outside and floods the streets with idiots. We’re all suckers plied with spurious directions to dead-end demotions. Wake up. Sleep. Wake up again.

When the good lord was passing out a conscience I went out for a beer. Nothing but a quiet dignity to sink in the river with a “Like New” sign hung around my neck. A likewise dull business struggling towards an effortless transaction: an oil well of moods gone dry. I cannot tell the truth. My song’s my dance’s lie. Cheat along. Drift and dwell. Sub par as always, in the midst of calamity, exaggeratedly hustled, and rotten as a car salesman pouring hot butter into a wildcat’s ear. Trot out the strings and all. I’m moving out of the whole into half of everything but the truth.   

I sit stately and distant on an obtuse bench in the park, gazing at the girls running around the park’s edges. The sun’s at my back. If, in the haste of lost courage, I spit into the wind, it is, at last, without thought. Kowtowing with the worst of them, the horseshoe crabs and the brine flies and eagles tossing ducks to each other in midair. I’m rankled at the sight of sandals and shorts in public, jeans and people who don’t wear socks. The feasibility of my way of life has taken a nosedive. 

The kids don’t yell, “Fins!” with their fingers crossed. Go ahead and step on a crack and tell me the name of a doctor or two. It finds me, this polished and lazy brand of hedonism that takes itself too seriously and doesn’t evoke even a thimbleful of joy or freedom. Expanding isolation to cover large swaths of other people’s occupied spaces. It is tasking to be in retreat all of the time. A woman, perhaps, holding flowers wrapped in newspaper while seated on the bus’s facing seats. There are no recriminations to paddle around in. I am fit for nothing.

“He’s showing off his socks like he’s Jacques Tati or something.”    
“Great. Goat, got.”
“Sure as Shinola. I am on to the races. I am off to everything else. Check that the orderlies assign their own tasks. Calistoga for the poor, the wretched, and the unique. Bathwater for the sappy and the clinically sane.”
“Greats of lesser Gods get smashed too.” 

His friends all called him Jerry; not J.D. The New Yorker rejected his stories so much that he used to write them letters telling them how crappy the stories they ran were compared with the ones of his that they’d rejected. They even rejected a few more after he got famous. He craved fame until he got it, and then he discovered it was too much for him. He hated being famous, but rode it out for 14 years before going into a phony exile.

To cheat or be harassed. No time to not wait.   

She ages about as well as a used Honda but she's built like a Buick, and I'm riding on the passenger side. To the run-of-the-mill testiness that gets plundered before you sauté it with burning gasoline, to the hard-to-find fog that does nothing but drift and mull, to plastic’s cheap staying power, to ruled-out rolls of anywhere you might go. 

It was recounted more then. There were places still without names, and when you came to one you got stuck. You see, the Resting Spots were owned by the Bathroom Keepers, who also owned the Parklet Play Areas and the Clay Entablatures Of Posterity’s Clutches. Where the bafflement went, it was hard enough to tell without jailing your emotions for the remainder of whatever service it was you were either being harangued by or just mildly and slightly paying attention to at the moment’s current residual value. Bass thumping from above. Always bass thumping from above. It was the worst of the worst of times, and it got better but never became best, or anywhere near it. There was so much; there was so little. You just get used to washing your thoughts in bleach, somehow; and the scent of it is forgetful, so you clamor for that much-needed how in a world of only whys. There’s where the recounting helped, it seems, or seemed: over the pressing affairs, under the tidal schism of justice and forbearance, without glabrous hopes and deferred decision-making processes. The slap and thunder of money making, it labels the evenings ordinary while it dilates the motions that make imprints on the cloudy, shagreen surface. Mistakes find their level, and stay.

“The moviegoers got gassed. Do not be teased with plots that drizzle on. Lie a bit more, and lower too.”
“Shake! Shake! Shake!” 
“Misery comes and misery goes. Play that shoddy strain of another lousy tune and sing some other song.”
“That makes more sense, now.”
“In the brushed fall fire of orange-tinted windows, we lose our capacity to change, and in doing so, well, there’s a call not being made, still. We know the arrival of differing. We do.”
“Let’s cut to the chopped liver of the matter. Be harrowing and vacant. Recumbent and stowed away. Stare uncomfortably ahead. The shore birds have picked me clean, again.”
“And in the first place, we’ve been swallowed up by preying gales into icy parlors of inanition. My lassitude sweeps the floor with me. God’s guess is at least as good as mine.”
“Shepherds who crawl, who seem very much singular and weak, inflated with opera, shy and motivationally stunted. We caress refusals from their indecision.”
“I was a mouse for a small time in the backwoods of our affairs. Something to get through the murk of endless afternoons with. The pirate’s lullaby. Listen. I went back to that Chinatown alley we used to stroll down. The Godmother of Grant Street recognized me. We had a laugh. The windows in the decomposing brick buildings were filled with laundry hung out to dry. There was nowhere left to go. All of my ups were down. The moon was the color of a dead pigeon. Everything was dead. The walls here are drowned in the hustle of fall’s scour. Listen. Retaliate. It’s at least charming.”
“It is, or was, delinquent of me to understate my case for carpet and/or rug burns. Posterity is garbled at best. We're made for dancing, and possibly nothing else. Spores of happiness warbled in with the mailman’s crying. Scales that won’t register your measly brand of hyperbole. Lock horns with a vanquished trolley operator. Rooms are being unmade down for you. I don’t swear too often, but believe me. Please?” 
“Sad as a foray into the blunt operations of our mettle can be, we’ve got to believe in each other. Yes?”
“No. But we do. We do. Really. We do.”
“I don’t. I never did. I watch the taxis scream by with vicious, petulant honks. I see lights change and people cross against them. Nowhere is a place too, you know?”
“Roll up your sleeves, baby. You’ll never guess who I’m in love with these days.”
“A macho stance and a wimpy alibi.”
“And I get more nonetheless. More. More. All the time. Nothing but more and more. I am so sick of more.”
“Wipe that Charlie Chaplin mustache off your face.”
“Oona! Oona. Your daddy was not only born but did his dying in a hotel room too. Oona!”
“We are asking for it, you and I.”
“Good. I’m tired of just being given things. Let’s do some serious asking, why don’t we?”
“The pixels are lost. The movie’s shot on film. And us? Hell, we’re all out of questions.”
“Wait for the dailies. Remove yourself from the act. Accompany yourself, in spirit at least, wherever it all my go-- or take you.”
“Yep. It covers the sun and masks your sympathy with pity. Nothing but bullshit pity.”
“We’ve got bed pans that make better pals than the ones we’ve got.”
“Trade you a wink for the semblance of a smile’s terror. How about it, huh?”
“I have a belt buckle with her name scratched into it. That’d do in a pinch, wouldn’t it?”
“Pitching in a pinch has never been my best asset. Who do you think I am, Christy Mathewson?”
“No. Iron Man McGinnity.”
“And if we both die before we wake?”
“This. Just…this”
“This is some serious shit. Don’t just dismiss it, okay?”
“And the blind typers continued typing.”
“Write what’s wrong or right and blow your motherfucking horn all over town about it already. Bullshit. Fuck it. Watch it. Just watch it. You might get what’s coming to you after all.”
“I doubt that very much.”
“Yeah. Me too.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It Was Christmas

            It was Christmas and the light coming in the window was too bright but it was Christmas and we sat at the oak table by the window that was too bright in the just dark enough bar and drank our manhattans and we didn’t talk too much not more than the sound rain makes on concrete or silverware while people eat and it was Christmas and we were sad and we sat there feeling bad and dull all through and nobody else in the place was talking much. 
            “For artists like us it’s apropos. We don’t have placemats with our names on them anymore. We get hungry and go out for a drink.”
            “Just base your opinion on something else, please. I’ve got polka-dot vision. I’ve got rabbit’s blood in my cocktail.”
            I reached up and pulled the shade down as much as it would go. I stopped noticing tiny things, like winged bugs fluttering about and the face of my friend sitting across from me.
            “It’s likely I’ll start in with some of that. Or stop in. What’s the exchange rate on bonhomie these days, huh? Thirty goodbyes for a Lexus?”
            “I’m dreaming in copper and mauve tones. I’m hallucinating in black and white. There are morons knocking on the floor to see if it’ll stir up the possibility of war coming to an end.”
            “There will always be war. There must be. It is part of our social structure. Without it we could never have a moment’s peace.”
            “Stand up. Sit down. Drink up. Do what you’re not told. It’s a choleric whim that substitutes our laziest moods for top-shelf ambition. I relent. I pass. I make a drink and stop thinking it over.”
            “In the beginning, I’m not me anymore. I’m a stranger with coffee stains on his socks. I’m loafing through sweetness and stomach-wrenching deceit. Let’s toast to newer days than these, and older nights.”
            “The plans we’ve never made. The schemes we’ve never thought to hatch. It is not who you are, but who you lose on the way to being you. I’m startled by the scuffling of small animals. My bedroom walls are a cemetery for mosquitoes.”
            “Tell the sun to get lost. Dark’s my milieu.”
            “The artists come and go, whining on in stereo.”
            “And me stumbling around with a sprained ankle and a misrepresented heart. I want salt-and-pepper gum and séances run by circus clowns. And so there we all go again, round the proverbial mulberry bush. I can’t help being grateful for these medium-sized, decent things we still have. My mind’s in the meadows.”
            A glass went to pieces on the floor. The chill of darkness felt good in our bones.
            “There is nothing tragic in your life. No real wallop of hurt that allows you the room to be morose or rotten to others. Please, no more scowling at the dinner table. We are tawdry with plush living.”
            “I am who I appear not to be. There are strangled hushes in my wealthiest tears. Don’t judge my exterior by my interior’s standards. There are more coffee cups in my willpower than you’ll ever dare guess.”
            “Farewell, beard. Hello, mustache.”  
            “Poop and scoot. Pee and flee. Snack and skedaddle. It’s a selfish plunge into annihilation. We can’t get by without the comfort of others.”
            It was Christmas and we’d never felt so small and the card players sneezed at the flies and I hung my topcoat on a doorknob and nobody was singing and there wasn’t a good thing going on anywhere. It was Christmas and I played dumb for the bartender and the out-of-work fireman and the saddest jockey in all the world.
            “I’m all shrugged out. The municipals and me. Distress is for the seagulls. Make the coffee stronger. Just don’t let the pawnshop hold me up. The sky’s like a tuba and my viola’s disappeared. Let’s pretend we’re still friends, and that the letters have all been sent and read. I don’t mistake roads for reasons anymore. I don’t read the want ads. Hang my hat in the hallway and call me later for breakfast than usual. I notice smaller things than ever. In the distance Chinese ricochets off alley walls and careens into the spaces that get made. Not like me at all. Not like you and me. The ceiling’s rough with what it’s heard. Beneath the chords, beyond the recent transactions of prayer, and into the words of quiet. I continue to be baffled and clobbered. Let the good lord do the driving. Let the kneelers stop their meddling. It is what’s up that keeps us down. You believe. You run from clouds and winds. The pull of fog carries you away. This broken-down computer’s brain’s not much of a friend, poorer for it, of course. Take a splash on the Pacific’s best tide. Streets named after deserters. Life culled from reasonableness. It is all gassed and gambled. We’ve got other things to be and see, here. We’ve got more than just life to lead. The days ahead are greedy, my friend. The leaves are hanging on like broken fingers on the branches. Don’t stop the presses or anything. Don’t lead with the left. My shoes are in the shower. My gloves are lost to the rain. Light’s turned to green, again, but not going anywhere. Stifling runs its course. Sidewalk’s a curse. Less than low and more to it too. Like Phineas Gage and his tamping iron, I keep my enemies close. Counting the cabs going by, it gets less miserable as the sky’s weaned off clouds. The proletariat’s in funeral-procession mode. Gifts are on loan to the schemers of Glib Town. We get mesmerized by the stupidest things. Micromanaged desire gets its brush with fame while the scorched day’s exhaust fumes fill every breath with diesel. I’m not through.”
             “Talk, talk, talk. It’s runoff from the waxworks factory in your gut. Raise that glass, old pal. We’ll make it. We will.”
            It was Christmas and we raised our glasses. We were serious. It was Christmas and everything was made of polymers. Nobody was listening. The vinyl booths were ruined with us. It was Christmas and everyone was dying.
            “Amen to the bloodletters. Kiss the cruel and the sheepish and the malleable on the back of the head. We want our rights to be left alone; so does it go, and so it doesn’t.”  
            “I’ll drink to that.”