Friday, February 28, 2014

Rocky's Testament (Part 1)

“Things are looking rather deplorable for this here Yours Truly lately. People refuse to read anything I write, even if I pay them to do so. And the money’s running out on me too. Will you burn this letter with the rest of my scribblings when I have finally passed on to that great barroom in the sky? Perhaps people will come to read these things after I’m dead, and the thought of them doing so just absolutely devastates me.” –from Franz Kafka’s final letter to Max Brod.

The rain is here again. Back from a well-deserved hiatus, a slumbering hibernation perhaps. And me? I never had time to be young. I was born aged, weary, tired. There are no worlds left in me to explore. A legacy of emptiness. A hell of a thing to be. Refueling’s optional at the moment, so I go in for a few warmer whiskies: hair of the mule, or something like it. There’s a purpose for all this. Don’t you worry. Light some kindling and send a smoke signal to that great bartender in the sky. Tell him, “Please stop.” 

Okay. I’m still here. Poured another drop out of this here bottle into me. Should sate the demons for a bit, at least. I want a mannequin in my likeness to be displayed on pluvial days in Union Square. No plaster-of-Paris-souled son of a bitch is going to graffiti on some statue of me— of that I’m damn sure. Let them tear the limbs from the thing, if they must. I won’t mind the struggle. Besides, I’m a plagiarist at best. Worn sop of a gun that I am, I believe all attention will eventually sway towards the details, and then away, and then further than that. I’ve got my particular type of calculus to deal with, alone with my bottle and a typer. It’s futile to believe anything will be accomplished around here. I’m a bona fide saint in some circles though. It’s not easy to believe, but I’m told by those who are paid to know such things that it is true, so I believe it. What else can one do?

So. Let’s roll around to the peachier stuff of this life spent running the empties to the cellar trashcans.

Kids are singing on the street: “Train, train, go away. Come again some other day and take me on away. But today, train, train, go on away.” I agree with them in principle. It suits me somehow, in this drizzly state I keep myself in. There are plenty of worse things to hope for, roses and weeds and mud and all. I’m better for their singing. Soon they trot on away, splashing in puddles, ruining the tenebrous skies of my disposition with little tacks of sun. I’m glad when they’re out of earshot.

When it hails it kills. That’s what an ancient postman once told me. It’s not something I’d let on about to strangers or little kids, but perhaps there’s some listing of truth in there somewhere. It’s bad enough for me. It trains my attention to what it needs to focus on: spare tires in treewells, broken umbrellas turned inside out in the gutter of some place called Brooklyn Alley, the rust on a fire hydrant’s chain, a moving van’s shot hydraulics, a butterfly’s flutter to hold still in a gust, wrinkles on an old woman’s brow, the patrolling eyes of a traffic cop, the bluster of a card sharp, the noise of a garbage disposal, the mop and swing of a grade schooler’s uninhibited laugh, all the napes of the necks of all the girls I’ve loved before.

Just wasting time like the rest of them, I guess. It’s always so though, isn’t it?

The back of the room’s cleared. I put all of my chips on red, but not white or blue. I want Luis Tiant’s windup and Hammerin’ Hanks muscles. There goes my everything and my nothing, all at once, heaving it all up or falling asleep in your arms. I’m just the same for it, as always. Maybe R. Carver could’ve done something better, or O. Henry. But I’m just another sucker off the mend again. Nobody’s worried about me though. Nobody at all. Not even me.

A cab trolls by, skidding through the rain-wet one-way. And I’m left up here getting older and resting less and less easy. The typer skids too, smearing everything to all hell: some sort of resuscitation for me, I guess. Wasting more time than I’ll ever let on about. It’s still something. And something is still better than nothing, I find.

                The places I go, they're not worth going on about. Situations run their course, and I sometimes get what’s not mine, in some Pennies-From-Heaven scam. It’s a two-bit smile that never comes through. An empty subway car after midnight’s gone for good. Whatever’s not happening, that’s what gets me through it all. A barely legible sketch in the scratchy record of who I was, I get by still. Begging more pardons and getting less and less in return.

                Trotting out the worst of me, through thimbles of terror and canisters of ineptitude. There’ll be more to go on about soon, perhaps, but I’ll be the worse for it. Isn’t that the way these things seem to mostly go? I need trumpets and all I get are these shoddy saxophones.

                The rain is here again. My shoes are in the oven. The rain’s here to keep me here. There are less likely suspects. The smokes are all gone from my hiding place. Get me a brick and a lighter, some yarn and a rifle. Tell Beverly that I’m done with that stuff, even though I never will be. The cat’s the only part of that equation I cared for anyway. And maybe the couch.

                Don’t get me right, I’ve always held others responsible for my inconveniences, and there are spelling errors still in my soup. The scent of umbrellas is all over everything, and I can’t make tails out of all these heads bereft of any sense. I’ve been making it on my own for just long enough now. It’ll all squander itself out in the end. There are even moths that know more than the rest of us.

                The Chinatown parade’s shut down the street again. The kids are playing with fireworks in Brooklyn Alley. Nobody’s my only one, now. Headlights as far uphill as anyone could ever see. The slight hinge-squeak of brakes. A patter of bass from a car stereo. The husky throttled stop-and-lunge voice of a bus. Only stinkers on the horizon. I’d see past and back, and the retreat of bolder voices less brassy slaloming down the sidewalk’s slope. With enemies like these who needs enemies? A tin’s tap and a hand holding a sleeping head in such bright yellow light. Idling motors and squeals of waiting through traffic’s jam. Solely together. Maybe the clothes will change themselves.

Perhaps all red turns to white and back before we notice it’s not too late or it is, also. You care with the swan-neck curve in the sodium yellow of it all, maybe? The parade’s just the litter of firecrackers, leftover egg-drop soup containers, and the pigeons snack on rice and discarded chow mein. The so-long is gone from the ago. Parallel parkers be damned. The onions are shredded and my paperbacks are all falling to the carpet. We have indecency to have while the bathtub grows more scum rings. Walk or walk. Our names on the slips from fortune cookies. It’ll be a jab at sweeps of the gutter, seeds and stuff, crumbled postcards, the ripped pouch that once held your hairclips and safety pins. An acrobat in the coffee pot. A honk’s shatter. A xylophone for your dreams? It bests the best I never got to have. Made into a distant thought. Chinatown’s not for hikers or parachuting bellboys. We know the hanging lamps, the bored fish in the window, and we read backwards through the dying neon signs and the clothes dangling like bait from the fire escapes, and we use chopsticks like swashbuckling barbers might, or midshipmen on shore leave. There are more sinister things to be. The swish of pedestrians pulled past the intersection through passed-over tchotchkes and artificial sentiment, and never our names on those miniature plastic license plates. There are huger deals, sure. But if one alit upon a razor’s edge would there be less demand? Made beds and always unmade minds. Up is the spiral lift of a softer place to lie.

The elevator to the rooms has been out of service for as long as any codger can recall.

                A supposition: I’m in the clutches of the devil, but he doesn’t want me. Somehow he can’t just get himself to let go though. All my running around just doesn’t do him any bad. Frustrated to all hell, as only He can be, He ruins what’s left of my scurrying around with dead-ends and bad luck. It doesn’t work. I just keep ruining right on along. Praise the lord. I’m whole again.

                So, blisters notwithstanding, these hills get wrecked. The murky ruin that substantiates any claim on doing better than this is bottled and sold to the lowest scum any bottom-feeder could find. And yes, right now that’s me. All the girls who won’t call back. The ones who think they’re above it all. Well, the rain will make you just the same. Sitting here feeling bad with my sunglasses on, wishing I were anywhere but home, with only a broken suitcase and an old pair of shoes to my name.

                What I’m saying is, “Just leave me alone, kid. I’m in a bad mood.” But what I really want is someone to come around and make me feel better about being me.

                Sentiments. I’ve got ‘em. Sure. Hot Toddies be damned. I’m running low on life’s joys. And when it comes to religion, well, it’s like the old Groucho Marx joke: I’d never want to be a member of a church that would have me for a member. That being said, from an early age I’ve always felt that I might be Southern Baptist trapped inside the spirit of a Buddhist— or maybe just an American Anglican flecked with a dash of Marxism and a dollop of agnostic leanings.

Maybe there aren’t any dots left to connect?

The way birds won’t fly. Sops on the street getting tired and getting nowhere. Sirens echo and the gravel relates. Time to stop horseshoeing around so much. Got a worse job than the last. If your sobs are filled with joy, then. If I’m up to nothing. Don’t shoot. I’m only here asking after applications. Typing with my eyebrows. Tantrums of lift that are never lucky. Don’t take root. The way birds fall in love. It is in the arc light of buried eyes. Got a better out-of-work slogan. Just a guy with some time. Into the architecture of concrete I dive. So little. So. 

Just this, something I haven’t told anyone else yet: “I don’t care what your parents named you. I’m a sucker for a girl in a raincoat. The drizzly parts of me surrender. And I am at the mercy of your whims.”  

                The evening’s all patched up with bandages of fog. The cops are never coming. Late-night TV simmering on and off through blundering cartels of after-work lassitude and wired agrypnotic staring. A bedroll for the old guy. I’m sledding through the shame of it all. Where’d the dial tone go?

If the off colors are wedded to repairmen, if the deleted words show up, and, “That’s no way to treat a telephone,” is all that’s said— then I would want to know why you shouldn’t like me, even a bit. But until then, forget it.

                When hearts like ours meet. Nothing growing. Through all musts of devastation. Sad. Nobody home to answer my knock: a last call for desperation. Where you been? How does it not go? Are we really never going to speak like this again? Hell, even Dear Abby doesn’t got any advice for me.

                Disjointed but never apart. Some grade-school genius gone to pot. Perhaps if I were El Greco something could be done. And then we could all sing, “The Lord, He thought He’d make a man. These bones are going to rise again. Made him out of mud and a handful of sand. These bones are going to rise again.” But no, I am just dripping right along with the eaves. Wrong’s the rain, now, and so am I.