Sunday, May 30, 2010

dollar-bill bookmarks

I know the way the heart spells wrecked

spills itself top-heavy with care

and maroons away scrapped and stapled together

skirting the accordion music of forgiveness

tossed to the curb with no forwarding address

I know the way the heart dwells and hides

tucks itself away in cornfields of regret

near enough to what it wants

but far enough away to never have

what it wants

I know chances the heart mistakes and breaks

forfeits and chucks away

and sometimes even

holds on to


I know the wide sky of stormy luck

that’s chopped with clouds

unfurling like tea-stained napkins on a lapis lazuli tablecloth

and how it spurns loss and spins aching heads

I know choices crazed with whisky eyes

I know spasms of revolt clasped to long-gone moments

I know the heedless casts of hope’s threadbare lines

into the rough waters of badly timed sorrow

I know the way the heart sticks

and picks the thorns from what it wants

and plucks along with too long afternoons

through thousands of gray rainless days

I know the heart’s dry wells of misses

and its desperate greedy swallows

and its listless cuts

that splice today into tomorrow

already half lost and never found

I know the skips of nearly there

that ricochet off desertion’s blue face

only to drop and backpedal

and whisper longing through even bluer nights

impatient and fasting through faraway weather

I know the heart does what it can

while peeling away shiny layers of try

only to end up restless

vulturing its own demise

stuffed with mildewed apple cores and crumbled corks

stubbing the callused toes of useless frets

through ceiling-staring nights

through the tightening of shoelace belts

through stringless symphonies

through the strains


waiting waiting waiting waiting






not like leaping headfirst into the lamplight

not like that



my heart’s

pinball machine is tilting towards your dreaminess

so flipper that replay to life

while you’ve still got a chance

Thursday, May 27, 2010

invariably ephemeral

wake up, heart yanked out

It’s the shareholders. Those are the people whom I do not trust. Try giving something of yourself. That should do the trick. Slowly add food back into your diet. Alright. Now. Here we are back with you. And nobody is blowing his nose here. We are on our best behavior. Slumbering while going through drawn-out periods of suffering is not the same as hibernating or closing the refrigerator door. It’s just a sore neck from TV watching. It’ll pass. Live sporting events will keep happening. I’m just using selfishness as a defense mechanism against being hurt by others. It’s the taste, not the meal, that’s important. Ever since I left Montana there has been a lamentation curled about my thoughts. Rummaging for better offers curtailed the investors’ interest in being themselves, then we all had a jorum of liveliness, and then we crashed on many couches. A bum was howling about the Bourgeois Revolution, but he had a bad lisp and was hard to make sense of, and he had crumbs of concrete in his hair so it was hard to take him seriously. What stems from a predilection for wanting to make others jealous? Fake names and margaritas with no salt. I have not read any Tolstoy for 14 years, but that doesn’t keep me quiet, and it doesn’t make me insecure—though I am. Plus, I am not a rascal. Then again, if one cannot even buy a new shirt on a boring day of sun and the loping off of tree branches, then it is unnecessary to finagle one’s way into the measured situations of ego inflation. It’s the buyers who make the sellers nervous. It’s the unplanned ritual of necessity that mars the cinnabar dust with the hacks of a new generation. We purchased the leased land from parking lot attendants, after we’d mustered the funds from playing all-night poker games. We’re all knotted up at 64 with 7:12 left to go in the 3rd. Untying knots had become somebody else’s business; caring was my own. Wanton was the fire chief, but not crude, only kind. I wonder if it is possible to suffer from Florence Nightingale syndrome while nursing myself back to health. Food enters the equation, but is subtracted out of the picture. We are piddling creatures who do more harm than good while driving golf carts through equestrian courses. Shake the ugly branch and a pulchritude of sorrow will sail towards a bowed head. Fawning over those artists who were creating faun statuettes was getting boring, so we stopped and instead played Monopoly for four days straight. We’ll be right back after this message from our sponsor. It’s the crop growers. They have a stake in this too, you know? The street was humped there, like it was warped, I guess so the rainwater would flee to the gutters. Trombones kissed pearly by flattened needs are inseparable, untouched and disregarded. Emptying my pockets was the hustler’s only concern. Let’s not get in until the water’s warm. Tickets go on sale for underwater window watching at 4pm Tuesday. Every time my head rolls, every time all my nickels disappear, every time the graduate students go on sale I clip coupons from the dictionary. Eskimos drench their sorrows in snow-laced brandy. Capturing spiders under a paper cup was enough fun for the kids during recess. It’s the dance makers who fall through the sky like blueberries. Have at it. It’s the toad catchers who make up most of the retired men living at the transient hotel near Broadway. Don’t forget to count to eleven before resetting the controls on the toaster oven. It was the motel owners who fought hard and lobbied against the fracturing of the freeway. The televisions all blared in unison from every room. We had potatoes. We had copper-plated fights, on and off. We wished for each other’s demise, at times. Triumphs kept tailing off, and most of the dread we kept too—to ourselves. The lizard could play fetch as well as any dog, but got tired of it quicker. Estimating the fortuneteller’s time of departure from this world was becoming easier every day, but the testing out of the world’s timing was often done in an ill-conceived manner. I was done renting out my dreams for rent money. From here on out it’s going to be they versus them, unless an opponent is vomited on mid-fight. Redirecting the bristling residue of hatred for bite-size snacks was necessary for the elimination of doubts regarding the world being ruled heavy-handed by an omnipotent god. Let us be thankful for the flavors of fruit roll-ups. The Red Bull canners were busy applying a thin coat of worry, with jerky dabs of forgiveness, to the spit-stained walls of their boss’s still-to-come promises. Ever the forthright lunatic and always fat of head, the glib bank executive put the Pizza Hut employee on speaker phone, whistling When Johnny Comes Marching Home the whole while, until he’d gathered his straying thoughts as to what toppings he’d prefer on his Build Your Own Pizza order. Some said his head was cresting, but to me it never seemed quite so severe as fasciation, and I attributed the cragginess of his scalp more to his hatred for shampoo, but he was my kid, and you know what they say about that. It’s the wine merchants we’ve got to watch out for. I was keeping time back then by tapping a #2 pencil on the chair of the girl sitting in front of me. Don’t recall who made this mess, but the chances of me cleaning it up fall under the snowball’s-chances-in-hell category. Pass the time. They don’t make mountaintops like that no more—they don’t keep.

a list

(a) It’s all a matter of being neglectful of the things in your life that need doing.

(b) It’s like the mystical character of commodities, or a Veblen good. A direness attached to possessing something. Of course, there’s the whole conspicuous consumption aspect to it as well.

(c) But even if love does believe all things, I’m still not so sure that it is never deceieved.

(d) With a glum and serious demeanor my secretary said to me, “You’re nothing but a willowy chirr, galloping half-assed with gummed-up leggy flutterings, an asinine blow of erumpent hollowness from the feckless embouchure of amateur lips. Everything about you is jerry-built and false.”

(e) It comes down to basing our understanding, breached confidences and the like, or even the worth we attach to things, on other’s critique of its essential “worthiness.” Are the ochre leavings of sunset something to become teary over? Should a well-blurbed book sell better than a well-written one? The topography of our lives might be bulldozed by desires and ambitions, fraught with boulders of grief and greed, but our path need not be littered with store-bought obstacles.

(f) Can one to thine own self be true, or does one become too dependent on the lying to get by?

(g) Our proximity to things, our real-time closeness with the hot-dog-lamp intensity of purpose, these are things we could come to depend on, could we not?

(h) Lower the porticullis of forgiveness, and we shall rein in the meek.

(i) E+M-C=LMNO/P (squared thrice overly underhanded)

(j) Much of life is merely hyperventilation and hoopla.

(k) Thwarting my allusive advances on the subject in question will not stop nor hinder my motivation.

(l) Keep your nose clean.

(m) There is a breadbox bigger than a breadbox somewhere in the knotty and cumbersome folds of a New Hampshire subdivision.

(n) A species of moment will survive after the spendthrifts blow on through.

(o) Grant the sprayers of pesticide a pardon.

(p) Let the hair-sprayed stay resilient.

(q) Panic and calm will come to everything in due time.

(r) Sometimes yes means maybe so.

(s) Equations contradict indications for business use only if and only if seeking is a redistribution of poorness.

(t) A shortcut from nothing to nothing. Roads, ancillary to nothing, apprehend the getaway schematics, wisely.

(u) Laundry.

(v) Aleatory music tosses coins at pitches towards perfection before an empty auditorium. Gaps are filled on purpose by implied persons who do not really exist except in the way of indeterminacy.

(w) Nothing.

(x,y,z) Add, subtract, multiply, fruitfully divide.


So I’m there on the street corner—well on the sidewalk really—wishing that what I should do would turn into what I want to do. And I’ve got a Subway sandwich in one of their clear plastic bags doing some dangling from my right hand, swaying like a metronome back and forth, you know, and I’m leaning there with my left arm outstretched into a telephone pole. My head’s down. I must’ve looked like an exhausted marathon runner. I wasn’t out of breath. I was just tired and hungover and dizzy and confused. Just taking a little breather there, you know. So, there’s this scantily clad woman, and she’s walking towards me, and she’s got good wares and she’s flaunting them to beat the band, and I’m kind of checking her out, you know, giving her a little eye here and there. It was hard to look at her though, even being as surreptitious as I was being there. Something about her was curious. It was a functional thing, like a hammertoe or Xerox machine or something. I don’t know. For some dumb reason I wanted to keep tabs on her, keep her at a safe distance. So I keep hanging around, dangling the damn sandwich, helping the telephone pole stand up. And she’s getting closer and closer to me, and like I said, she’s not covered up with much clothing. Short is too long to describe the jean shorts she had on. I must’ve been gawking. Her legs were nice, and I’ve always been a bit of a legs man. The shirt she was wearing ended soon after it got started. There wasn’t much on her that didn’t look damn inviting. I started thinking about that Dionne Warwick song Walk On By. Then it got stuck in my head. And this girl went walking on by. And I’m kind of humming that song, or mumbling it under my breath at least. It was all I could think about for a while there, leaning like I was, gripping that clear plastic Subway bag with my sandwich in it, ogling that girl like that. And the sun was getting in my eyes. And my head was mush. And the light turned. And the traffic roared. And I didn’t care about anything.

heartlike ears

suspicions gloom about with hadenough cares

gurneyed to indecision

doom crushes me under its munchkinsoul

the sheriff curses my name

my escape is never made

gladabout is not a guess

I don’t know where I am

sadabout is just a poor substitute

for you

shake this hand until it’s gone

shouldwouldcould is just a left


artfully westofhere

but at least

not indifferent

“…we are all in the end creatures of appalling fragility and vulnerability. Out of the millions of people we live among, most of whom we habitually ignore and are ignored by in turn, there are always a few who hold hostage our capacity for happiness, whom we could recognize by their smell alone and without whom we would rather die.” –Alain de Botton

another futile attempt at the flexible first-person narrative

a: I’d like to draw a parallel there.

b: Why don’t you draw a perpindicular instead?

a: Sure. Then. That’d be like. Well. So. This guy always succumbs.

b: He’s quite addicted to overcompensating, isn’t he?

a: Well. It’s his insecurities that dominate what he does, who he is. He let’s them stalk him like a sniper, lurking incognito about the precincts of his moods.

b: But so yes and then of course well…

a: …he gets to the point where all of this concealement just becomes too much, and he’s faking everything…

b: Aren’t we all?

a: Of course. It’s all we do. We wear costumes to hide ourselves. We make up the substance of our lives with poses and tiny lies. Like Gatsby’s old sport says: personality is just an unbroken series of successful, or unsuccessful, gestures.

b: But this guy, he doesn’t realize what he’s doing.

a: Yep. Sees himself as an egomaniac, and doesn’t want others to see him like this, so he goes like way overboard to show them that he is a kind and caring and magnanimous individual.

b: This is all an act though, right?

a: I don’t think it’s that simple.

b: Nothing ever is.

a: He’s doing things, even if his heart is so to speak not in it, he’s doing kind and caring things for others. Even if it’s all a hoax, he’s still doing good, right?

b: I’m not so sure that what he’s partaking in can be considered good or bad. It’s definitely not good for him, for his mental health.

a: Isn’t that the name of a Quiet Riot album?

b: No. That’s Metal Health.

a: Oh yeah. You’re right.

b: I often am. So this guy is probably suffering a bunch on the inside.

a: On the inside.

b: And he’s doing himself a good deal of harm.

a: On the inside.

b: He’s got like a porcupine quill of worries sticking into him, keeping him up nights, the constant chatter of a little voice in his head repeating, “You’re no good. You’re no good.”

a: And he keeps trying to quell all of that noise with these brave attempts at being…good.

b: Right. He feels so miserable for being such a lackluster and neglectful human being that he tries to right the ship of his woe with these masquerading forays of munificence.

a: That’s an odd way to put it.

b: He’s constantly screaming at himself, sometimes not so under his breath, “You’re an idiot!”

a: So there is like this self confidence that he lacks, and he feigns vanity and cockiness to make up for it, to not let other people see what he lacks, what he feels he really is. All this disaffection, this loneliness and craven longing, it’s all stuff he wants to hide away, stuff about himself that he’s ashamed of. He doesn’t want to let others…

b: On the inside.

a: Yes. He doesn’t want them to eye this ugliness he feels is besmirching his soul.

b: Besmirching?

a: He makes jokes to get by. He lies about everything. He wants badly to be liked, but feels unworthy of it.

b: This guy must have a real excess of guilt.

a: He butters his toast with it. He mixes it with tap water. He uses it to wash his eyebrows like the rain would.

b: What?

a: I don’t know. He’s got a lot of fouled-up sensibilities. A lot of quirks, if you will.

b: Causes. Should we get down to causes?

a: Cases and causes.

b: Okay.

a: He becomes addicted to his over-compensating life style. His social skills bloom, as do his passions for drugs, for things that make him feel better about himself and who he is. He begs for other’s approval. Alcohol consumes him, holds him hostage for days, only to leave him empty-headed and in ruins. There is no tide to come sweep him away from the shores of his despondency. The sky is tattered with dental floss. People want to be around him. They find some kind of respite from boredom in his faked joviality. There is a certain magnatism and charisma to his ways. Charm effuses the air about him. He goes over the top and then takes a few more leaps up.

b: So on the outside it seems he’s this great gregarious guy…

a: Ugh. Can you rephrase that? Alliteration makes me want to tear my fingernails off with pliers.

b: Quit being such a pansy.

a: I’m not making any promises on that front.

b: Figures. Anyway. This guy appears to be something that he is not. And not only that, but in reality he’s actually the exact opposite of what he’s fronting. He’s a complete phony.

a: Yet he’s only partially in denial about it. He knows what he’s doing, and at the nadir of his exisiting is this base-shallowness that keeps time with the mordant and derelict parts of the ticking time bomb of his heart.

b: Shallowness. That’s one way to put it. But there is a deepness there too. He wants to be better than he is. He’s just bad at making himself believe that he’s capable of it, and that he’s even worth it. Yeah. Maybe he is really lacking in self worth.

a: Of course dipshit. That goes without saying. He’s lacking in all kinds of things.

b: But you were speaking of forgiveness earlier, right?

a: Possibly. That would make sense. He might have a hole in his conception that needs to be filled by having mercy on somebody who has done him wrong. Probably needs to get over something, and part of him just wants to hold on and keep grinding out that grudge.

b: Peope often times don’t want to let go of what it is that’s doing them harm. They get too used to it, and it becomes an important part of who they are. Crying in the rain and all that. Sometimes it feels good to be wallowing in misery.

a: We come to love the things about ourselves that are keeping us from leading the life we want to be living, and we hate ourselves for it, for this kindling of our bad habits.

b: The guy needs his neuroses to get by, or at least thinks he does. They become part of his personality, and he doesn’t want to let them go. It’s like he’s holding onto them out of fear, fear of change, or whatever it is.

a: So everything gets all bottled up. He holds it all in.

b: Yep. And then it’s, blam! It all gets vomited up at once, and he acts out and goes on binges and does insane things he knows are not wise for his well being. He makes friends with the criminal element. He forms false bonds of friendship. Maybe he spends some time in jail.

a: Close enough.

b: Everything gets dissipated. He’s sleepless and always on the brink of going insane. Nothing makes sense. His laziness is overwhelming, and his summer days go tumbling down winter’s stairs.

a: Let’s rein him in.

b: Okay. So he keeps, regretfully, going off the deep end, and there is no bottom for him to hit. He just keeps falling. And the more he falls the less he cares about ever stopping, of ever planting his feet on freshly carved marble and starting the climb back up.

a: He won’t give himself a break. He doesn’t even feel sorry for himself. He just keeps rearranging the furniture in his head, but it’s the same stuff. He’s just fooling himself, changing for the same.

b: Right. And we don’t make exceptions.

a: No. We’d never do that.

b: Never.

a: It takes a special something…

b: …and you never know it…

a: …until you see it.

b: Right.

a: But let’s move on to what this guy tried to fill up all that emptiness inside of him with.

b: Was it emptiness?

a: Of course. It’s all emptiness.

b: So he filled it up with an other.

a: Right. Somebody else.

b: Somebody outside.

a: Is this the entity that we often times refer to as The Object Of Desire?

b: Pretty much. Same difference. For our purposes here.

a: Let’s just assume…

b:…for our purposes here.

a: Yes. Let’s just go ahead and plant that cognomen on her.

b: Her?

a: Sure. Why not? This guy, well, this guy he’s got it bad. Stuck on some girl. Lost in the throes of passion, desire, love…those kinds of things.

b: Okay. He’s rickety in his insecurity and he needs something to hold him up, to get him to believe, or maybe dupe him into believing, that he’s worth caring about, and that he in turn can then care about somebody else too.

a: So this OOD…

b: Oh good. I love acronyms.

a: She comes to symbolize for him all these wonderful things that he wishes people thought about him but instead he just throws them all in a clumpy mass onto her and he pedestals her and he comes to believe that there is nothing else in the world he’d rather do than just spend time with her and gets addicted now to this, to this spending time with her, the OOD, to being with her and talking to her and…

b: Jesus. Slow down man. You’re driving me batty.

a: He’s got these beautiful illusions and he doesn’t want to know if they’re crushable. But he bubblewraps them anyway with sweet nothings and roses and all the likes.

b: So this OOD was not really, um…

a: It was just that he became so focused on his Object Of Desire, whatever current phenomena or creased pronouncement of the present screaming, “I am here! This is I!” that that entailed, that he became somehow demented, though not in a way that was completely lacking in reality. It just wasn’t the real way he should have been seeing things in. His focus was gobbled up by this narcotic energy, which was only energy in a nominally vague sense, as it depleted him of any willpower to do anything but concentrate on his OOD, said OOD consisting of substance fantastic and delirious and also real too, somewhat, though just how much he never really let himself know. Keeping the OOD almost entirely in the realm of make believe was of the utmost importance. If the OOD somehow became corporeal and trod upon his life with actualness it became too much for him…

b: Okay. Let’s scram away from this fantastic bullshit.

a: Fine. I sense you’ve got an ulterior motive here somewhere. A question perhaps?

b: It has something to do with palm trees.

a: The ones outside the yellow-orange brick building?

b: I think so.

a: Well, he was walking by them one day, the palm trees, and his memory was jarred. It was something almost pre-verbal, something exhumed from the subterranean vault containing his earliest brushes with life. There was almost a scent to it, but not quite. It was nothing he could explain, just a feeling he got, that crept up on him, and it seemed very familiar yet far away at the same time. He thought of San Diego for some reason, and his grandmother. He figured he must’ve gone there with her at some point when he was very young. There was something windy about it, something warm and strange and comforting. And there was that building with the sienna and beige bricks…

b: Sienna and beige?

a: Yep. And he’s walking on by and he’s taking this all in, and you know what? He starts crying. It comes on in a wave, like the raging panic of hysteria after the unleashing of bottled-up dread. He can’t explain it. And he feels embarrassed and stupid. And he walks over to the building…

b: Really?

a: Yes sir. And he gets this shivering sense that he’s been there before. Not like déjà vu. Not like that at all. It’s more like this hunch, this glimmer of misty misgiving that you’ve got some tangled up emotions tied up or invested in a something that is way beyond your powers of imagination.

b: I’m not sure that makes sense.

a: Don’t worry. It does. So, this building’s got these outdoor horseshoe-arch hallways, like something you’d see in Rome or something, and there’s a lot of plant life, and a garden, and the whole feeling he gets from it is, well, the only way can describe it, because it’s rather nebulous and ineffable, is to think about it as being soft, like butter melted on toast, and there is nothing about it he can put his finger on. It’s like something is lifting from him, something airy and light, and he’s almost sleepy with it.

b: Sounds like bad news for a guy out in public walking around.

a: Well. It doesn’t turn out that way though. There aren’t many people around. Things are kind of slow. It’s mid-afternoon. Too early for most folks to be off work, too late for the lunch crowds, and he’s just ambling aimlessly, not really expecting anything, and suddenly he’s crying for no reason that he can think of.

b: Strange to say the least.

a: Certainly. He starts pondering things going on in his life. He sits down on the stairs in front of the building. He glares up at the windows, the patterns the bricks make in the walls, the fronds of the palm trees flapping like elephant ears in the breeze. A slight plangency whistles through him, and he clammers for some whiff of hope to restrain him from plunging deeper into the lachrymosity he’s dipped his toes in the waters of.

b: What?

a: He’s balking. He’s trying to keep a lid on things that are spilling out. He’s hedging, putting things off, not dealing with…

b: Okay. Enough. It’s inanition central. I get it.

a: But I’m talking just like iceberg-tip type stuff here. There’s more to this than simple…

b: Okay. I get it. There’s more complexities abounding than in heaven and in earth, etcetra. Yeah. That’s one of those suffice-it-to-say kind of things, right? Tacit, is it not?

a: Fuck a motherfucking duck.

b: I’ve often admired the assonance and rhyme of that phrase.

a: So this guy is withering, caught up in old F. Scott’s, “sheer nervous dread of the moment.” He starts to maybe curl up into the fetal position, maybe something even more feral and all-consuming. I don’t know. Something with nothing-left-to-lose about it. You know, the scariest part of really dealing with something that like hits you close, longing-wise or whatever, to what it is that’s hiding locked somewhere buried inside, is that it’s going to significantly change your perception of who it is that you are. For once in his life he actually feels like he’s not just going through the motions. What he feels is real, and he’s acting on it. But it’s worrisome in the worst way. He’s miffed and weary…

b: Wary.

a: Yep. That too. He’s starting to realize things about himself, about why it is he does the things he keeps doing, digging the same holes he knows he won’t want to climb out of in the morning. And this is disturbing to his fragile and tempermental psyche.

b: Poor sap. Give him another girl.

a: Nope. He’s tried that. That will simply not do. There is some paucity inside of him, some hole that he’s trying to fill, some ingrained defect he has come to believe has sullied his whole demeanor, his whole attitude towards life. And when it comes down to it, life is nothing more than your attitude, your response to it, how you see the world that is presented to you.

b: We are what we come to believe we see ourselves to be, and the things we see are just our ideas about them, about what we want them to be to us, and then it’s like, well, you start to think that the world is spinning for only you alone.

a: That particular something that stirs the waters of our perception’s unique well. It’s hard to define, or even pinpoint the substance of.

b: No more. No more auction block for me. No more. No more.

a: Fuck that. That’s not what I’m talking about. Fuck that noise. Fuck all that.

b: Hey, easy. It’s just a song.

a: Nothing’s just something. Of course it’s not just a song. No more driver’s lash for me. No more. No more. 80,000 gone. That’s not just a song.

b: Okay buddy. I plead the fifth.

a: Okay. Okay. Okay. Well, this guy. He’s got it bad.

b: Or maybe he’s got it good, but he just doesn’t realize it. He doesn’t know that in reality, if he could get himself to reconsider the maladjusted way he’s perceiving things, he’s got it made.

a: I shall not be moved.

b: I heard that.


So this cow’s hitched to a fencepost. There is this cow. It has black spots, like lagoons, but is mostly white. This cow is lonely. There is nothing for this cow to do except wait to be killed. The cow eats grass. The cow moos. The cow has crushes on other cows. The cow shits and pisses and gets sad sometimes too. But mostly this cow’s got it pretty easy. This cow sleeps standing up. This cow wonders about cars going by on the freeway, and what they are, and where they’re all constantly going, and about where there is to go. The cow goes as far as a barb-wire fence. The cows gets a lot of time to just be alone and chew its cud. The cow never goes hungry. Early in the mornings, when not much is stirring, and the dew licks at the grass, the way the sunlight shines almost like a golden crown on the hills makes the cow happy.

I don’t have time to explain. The show’s almost back on.

There was a cow. It had spots. It got sad sometimes, and was happy other times, and it did all the stuff a cow does before it gets its neck sliced, and is chopped up for hamburger meat.

Hit the mute button. Be at peace. Lock up your hunger. Hit the streets. Go out to pasture. The balls of your feet will survive.

So. There is this cow. So. This cow is well fed. This cow’s whole life is a lunch break. This cow has a reason for existing. So. This cow has a very meaningful life. There is a point to this cow’s living. So. This cow is alive to become food for humans. So. Flies land on and hover around the cow. This cow’s ears hang low. So. So. So.

Change the station. Make amends. Promise to be wise. Dance to the music. Just do it.

A cow’s life. A cow eats grass. A cow doesn’t need to worry so much about bladder control issues. A cow doesn’t dance or laugh. A cow never goes swimming.

My mind wanders. I misplace things. Static reigns in my head. I hit the Mute button on my remote control.

A cow clicks its heels together but it’s already home.


it’s this time of day when the light sifts and golds through the daffodil tops flurrying the sky

it’s mostly this time

this time of the day

when the cops are all on a break

and the Laundromat is empty

and parked cars stop their ticket-free daydreams

and rest on their rubber laurels over leaf-filled gutters

it’s this time that comes to the day

this passive streak in the way the sun wanes

curdling the sidewalks’ bright that’s blessed with pigeon shit and gum-residue splotches and cigarette butts

and there is hastening that melts

there are petals scattered and tossed and run ragged by the wind’s fickle affection

there are cracked neon signs spluttering and flickering diffidently to life

there is a saxophone echoing with a tender flush the scramming holdouts in alleys and trashcans

it’s this time that the day brings out

when the street signs all glimmer green and strike a platform pose

when the buses seem to meander and wheeze a little more

when the last limping lees of lamppost shadows draw themselves out a little longer and gasp

when the dogs quit their jabbering barks and curl on front porches to nap

it’s this daily wash in soft sleepy hues

this masking of weariness and stuffy inanition

this muffeling of a fire-engine’s shrill blare

this pillowy lightness that is almost bearable


it’s this hum vaguing to hunches of bliss

it’s a little kid giddy hop-running after a peach skidding away down the hill

it’s the way this time of day won’t last

this temporary glitch in the course of things

this time of the day that gives more than it takes

that squawks sweet and skiffs by in a lazy blur

that peddles and pawns in a drowse of airplane motors

scuffling from an above that is neither far nor close

it’s this away that is not a now

that is near to here but not


is nothing about it murmuring on

that gets taken

except for granted

maybe in shades sunny

or windswept

malingering careless and breezy

on the clipped curl of afternoon’s lip

it’s this time of the day that kills out-of-work skydivers

it’s this time of the day that puts my better half up a tree

it’s this time of the day that pushes people out of windows

it’s this time of the day that makes a mess of heartache and swims alone

it’s this time of the day that makes cats yawn

it’s just this time of the day again

and it’ll be over

soon enough


partying with greg smith was a bummer. if you partied with greg smith you got wasted in his condo. greg smith was basically an asshole. he was older. he’d buy cigarettes and beer and wine coolers for us. he’d go to strip clubs and bars and hang out around liquor stores and those type of places. you know. those things like that. i tried not to party with greg smith but sometimes you couldn’t help it. you’d just end up at his condo, and he’d have all these bottles of alcohols and a beer keg and a pool table. we smoked camel light cigarettes on his balcony. it was a nice view. you could see the ocean and you could smell the ocean too, and you could hear the waves out there like rumbling and crashing or whatever, kind of like freeway noise or something. greg smith had my phone number. he’d call me up and we’d hang out. he’d always talk about girls he’d done it with. he called them names. he said they were trashy. I never met any of those girls. except once i met this girl cookie. she had a man’s face but a woman’s body and a deep voice too. her legs were very muscular. she told me i could make it with her for twenty. i wasn’t that sure what we were going to make, but i only had 16, and i wanted to eat at mcdonald’s later too, so i told her i couldn’t make anything with her right then. she laughed and had all these teeth missing. there was a tattoo on her stomach i just saw barely under her baby tee. it was in this fancy handwriting, and was in a curve over her belly button, like the top of one of mcdonald’s gold arches, and it said, hos b4 bros. it didn’t make sense to me, but i’m usually a few fries short of a happy meal when it comes to most stuff. greg smith sometimes would slap at the back of my head when i said stupid stuff, and tell me that i didn’t even know shit from shinola. sometimes i’d try on purpose not to see greg smith. like sometimes i’d try to get detention at school by doing something like drawing a picture of my language arts teacher miss fetters masturbating with a ruler under her podium while she was lecturing us about some dumb book, and then passing it around class until she saw, and then she’d ask who did it, and some rat teacher’s pet would always point me out. they knew my work, those dorks. so i’d sit in detention, and greg smith would get tired of waiting for me outside the school, and he’d leave and cuss and yell my name. sometimes the principal would see him out there smoking cigarettes, and the principal would go out there and scream at him to get away, and sometimes that’d work too. but i’d go to those parties at greg smith’s condo sometimes. you’d hear all kinds of shit at greg smith’s parties. people would talk about newscasters and sports and sex and would try to make jokes to be funny, and there was always a lot of laughing and screaming and stuff. people would dance, and also people would smoke pot in greg smith’s bedroom. pot smoke made me feel sick in my stomach, like that time i ate that leftover meatloaf greg smith had in his fridge that he said was okay, but it wasn’t, and i puked all over his shag carpet. greg smith laughed about that, but he got mad at me too. so i never puffed on any pipes at greg smith’s condo. one time some guy was taking a big hit from a water bong right by greg smith’s bed, and somebody made the guy laugh while he was inhaling the smoke, and the guy spit bong water all over greg smith’s bed. it splattered all over his bed sheets, and looked kind of like shit stains. greg smith was super p.o.’d about that. another time somebody threw a whole pineapple through one of the condo’s windows. that was not good for greg smith. he got all mad and made a big scene. he never found out who did it. he kicked everyone out and was screaming at them that they were all a bunch of fucking dicks and cock suckers and shit like that. something about those parties would always leave you feeling bad. even if you were drunk, you’d still feel bad. just something about that place. something about greg smith. all those bright lights on in there. all those windows. the dirty plastic cups all over the floor like drooling jack and coke on the carpet. that bad furniture that looked like shit you’d find in somebody’s parent’s house. i heard greg smith stole jewelry from people’s moms. he’d go into your house with you after school got out, and you’d like sit there and watch tv with him and eat doritos, and he’d go on about how he was like the cif champion quarterback in his day or all-county or whatever, and about how he got cheerleaders to give him head underneath the bleachers after the games, and then he’d say he needed to take a piss or a dump, and he’d go off sneaking into your parent’s room. he’d steal all kinds of shit, but mostly it was jewelry. then he’d come back and make up some excuse like he had to go see about some girl or make his rounds or get a quick handjob or some other stupid thing he’d always say. greg smith was always saying stupid things like that. one time i saw him in the back of a cop car. he had his hands all cuffed behind his back and was balling his eyes out. it was real depressing seeing him like that. i heard later that he tried to pay a chick cop to have sex with him and that’s why they handcuffed him and took him away in the cop car like that. i never saw him much after that. he called a few times, but I told my mom to tell him that i wasn’t home.

run, run, run

A: Just like a feigned innocence or something un-booked about her powers of persuasion. It’s a push that comes without shoving. And it gets you all confused, and there’s nothing you can do but just wait it out, and then…and then, you end up apologizing. Shit. It’s really a damn mess that she makes of you. Your brains get all scattered around. Things lift and get set back down without anybody noticing that they’ve ever moved. And it’s like you got shanked. It’s trouble brewing in dimness. But you’re a sucker for it anyway. But you stick around and put up with it. And you’re not alone. And this is something that seems like it might matter.

B: Botched trying.

A: Okay. So take this one. There is this song on. It’s a Velvet Underground song. I’m not saying which one.

B: I think I know.

A: Well then venture your fucking guess.

B: I’d say…well…either Femme Fatal or Pale Blue Eyes.

A: Okay. So, this song’s on, and we were playing darts at the time.

B: Darts?

A: Yeah. She had a dartboard. Is that so unusual?

B: Kind of.

A: No it’s not. People have dartboards.

B: I’m just saying that it’s maybe not absolutely that “un-strange.” I mean I’d be willing to put money on the fact that there are way more people in this world who do not own dartboards than there are those who do. It’s got to be like 80 or 90 percent who don’t.

A: Whatever. It’s not important. Stop bothering me with this petty shit.


A: So we’re throwing darts, and I’m making a bunch of holes in the wall. My aim is not what you’d call very good. I am not a proficient thrower of darts.

B: What are dartboards made of? Cork?

A: I wish somebody’d put a cork in it right now.


A: Sisal fibers.

B: What?

A: That’s what they’re made of. Sisal. It’s an agave plant. They make rope and twine out of it too. And carpets.

B: Oh.

A: So we’re tossing the darts. And like I said, I’m losing big time. She’s kicking my ass.

B: Figures.

A: I’m no expert dartist.

B: There’s no way that’s a word.

A: Why not? A piano player is a pianist. Somebody who plays a flute for a living is a flautist.

B: I like saying that: “flautist.” It’s fun.

A: Yeah. I like long vowel sounds too. You should hear me pronounce people’s names. It’s like I’m speaking with a really bad German accent.

B: I’ve heard you. It’s really annoying.

A: Whatever. So, I’m getting my ass handed to me on the dartboard. And she’s talking about how there’s no way in the world that she’d ever have sex with me.

B: What?

A: Yeah. She’s going on about how it’s just something that is never going to happen.

B: How, may I ask, did this subject arise?

A: She brought it up. Yeah. I know. Fucking weird. We’re just talking and playing darts, and all of a sudden it’s like, hey, hands off the merchandise mister.

B: Had you tried to…?

A: No fucking way. Absolutely not. As far as I knew everything was absolutely platonic between us. I hadn’t even done any close whispering with her or tried any touching that in any way would give rise to this exchange.

B: No subtle brushing touch of your fingers to her arm. Not one half-try at holding hands. No brushing of her hair back off of…

A: Nothing. I think we’d shaken hands a few times.

B: You weren’t even on a hugging level yet?

A: Well. I guess we’d hugged upon seeing each other a few times, but it was always lazy and noncommittal on both of our sides. Just a loose-armed kind of hunch. No pulling close. No head-on-the-shoulder stuff.

B: Okay. So it’s just your usual friendship getting-to-know-you type of situational…um, no testing of the waters, so to speak, of whatever it was you had between you. Because there’s always something. Even if it’s mite-sized. There’s always something.

A: Down for you is up.

B: What?

A: That was the part in the song when she started going on about this no-sex-for-you-buddy hooey.

B: Am I supposed to make sense out of that?

A: I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. It was just so fucking weird.

B: No. It was just weird. No fucking.

A: Fuck……you.

B: Ouch. Little touchy. Maybe you did want to…

A: Anyone who ever had a heart…

B: Okay. Now you’re losing me.

A: Oh. I don’t know. It was this whole Velvet-Underground thing going on. The album was playing. And the songs kept coming. The line stuck out to me for some reason. Like it came on right in a gap in our conversation.

B: So what was this conversation like? I’m figuring there’s more to this.

A: Yeah. So. She’s giving me all this shit about not wanting to fuck me. Ever. Like under no circumstances would this ever be even a possibility. Like even if I were the last guy left on earth…

B: Okay. I get it.

A: Yeah. So…and let me remind you that this is all apropos of’s like a complete non sequitur…

B: I’ve grasped this.

A: So you have. Let me get you a medal. Or would you prefer a trophy? Some laurel leaves perhaps?


A: So I’m just kind of freaking out. Wondering where the hell all this is coming from. You know. Have I been sending out some kind of pheromones or something? Or…I don’t know. I’m just wracking my brain for answers, and I’m throwing darts all over the place, and sweating, and probably fidgeting a lot, and these damn Velvet Underground songs keep playing.

B: Good soundtrack for this, I think.

A: That was the crazy thing about it. The music seemed like it was playing just for us, like it was what was making all of this happen. Like Lou Reed was controlling everything that happened in that room.

B: Jesus. I just realized something. Her name.

A: I know. Jane. You see what I mean? It’s more than just a coincidence…at least that’s what I’ve come to believe.

B: I take it there’s more to this.

A: But of course. I wouldn’t be jawing your ear off for nothing.


A: Well. Not this time. She was really convinced that I was out to get laid. And all I really wanted was just to hang out and play darts.

B: Really?

A: Yes. I swear. There were no ulterior motives, from pole to pole in the sphere of my mind. None at all.

B: You’re so damn innocent. Just out to play some darts. Some good clean fun. Shake hands and drink coca-cola and play board games, right? You’re so full of shit.

A: Not even going to dignify that with a…

B: Oh shit. Wait a sec. Is this going to involve…oh shit…did Heroin come on?

A: Ha. You’ve sussed it out.

B: Wow. Now I see what you’re talking about.

A: Yeah. Totally fucking crazy…right?

B: Shit. I can’t believe it. You son of a bitch.

A: Whatever. You’re one to talk.

B: True. But at least I…


B: Okay. You’ve earned that smile, buddy. I’ll let you enjoy it.

end of upside-down anvil, side view

children aping saturday morning cartoons

it is not for just the trash trucks to lose

kids color the sky alive with crayolas

somewhat clumpy and disheveled

tide-less in the dirt of yesterday

bound for the t-shirted shore

happy as a january night

giddy and indispensable

fleas going out for a bite

a burst of trouble scouting for more

snagged on a live wire of practical matters

staffing the needs of happiness with xeroxed courage

flipping through sticky pages of fruit roll-ups in a candy magazine

underneath the poolwater checking out legs through a mask filled with air bubbles

“The heart wants what it wants. There's no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that's that.”

–Woody Allen


the anonymity of Subway is a valuable commodity during these days of dread

the streets clamor with attentive perks and jolts

formerly empty laughter now raised to a crummy pitch

a bum gives thanks for a found day in the almost dark

a crenellation in the masking of night’s timidity

the permission a waiter asks to clear the plates is the fondness of ducks for still water

the worn bus stop marking scales off the pocked curb with a skidded muster of yellow

the well-sink of sewer drains take the rain’s business away

the had of here is the where of now

as young apples sing worms to sleep

as marriages dissolve like mints on a stranger’s tongue

as lips miss and hit and loosly lick lost and stuck together too

the bluster of neons cracking lonely across skipped bottlecaps gives the street’s curve another contusion

there are cellophane dreams and cell-phone nightmares and the beating whir of insect wings

there are those less-skilled in the dramatic art of taking out the trashcans

there are legends made out of silly putty and pistachios

dilatory taxicabs clog drains of traffic with desperate bleats for attention

earthquakes come and go

rational flirts with commoplace crushes banking on fog to deliver hope like a furnace would

crickets to stay up all night with

twos and threes of change drift volleying over whatever will be forgotten in the morning

Starbucks stays lit through the storm

a jungle sprawls across the 7-11 parking lot

tailors trade in their wares for tips

a mothball crawls from a coat pocket and sings a new life into old words

electric guitars

History was busy rewriting itself. Fred had an apple and ham sandwich. He ate the sandwich which was sliced (green green green) apples sprinkled salt and pepper and sliced ham in there too. Fred didn’t put mayonaisse on his dark rye bread. He liked the way the apples squished when he bit into them and the ham was nice on his tongue too kind of cold.

Cold crept up on the herons catching them unaware. Baths were happening. Clare understood the weather report she just didn’t believe it.

Hard-pressed for assassination stories and cold without bagels was how the officers from the rumor division felt. Though when it came to the question of if the nascent resilience of the rag-tag fiduciary fellows from The Anteitam Re-enacters Guild would develop into all-out war they decided it was a matter of taste.

Clever enough was how Giovanni thought of himself. Never went in for all that melodramatic jazz that came around with the rain. Besides he still had that other girl on his mind all the time. He decided nobody was worth all that grief. He mowed the lawn while smoking a cigarette. This made him feel very much better.

A middling tweak of discourse (lithe) chimed like a (shake shake shake) spray paint can in Bessie’s (bruised) ear. Bundled with a sense of snapping (snores) while the getting away (ways) were just stolen cars with no tires. Bessie blew her nose (snot) a lot (green green green) and then some with the toilet running too (not at all like the rain not like that at all).

Clouds were arriving (quite regally) on time those whispering days of marionettes going around naked (all puff and no stuff) though there were fewer holes in the disasters of normal things when (limps coming back in style) we had clocks to hide away in (lesser than now) not like now (not a bit) just a blimp hustling the sky out of its clothes.

Curtis laughed at mayhem chopped bacon bits and hurling now his mistakenly worried smile at flour-sacked men who just didn’t understand he managed to recreate a poignant moment in the unwashed soup bowl of his life.

If pondering and dwelling were paid activities the general would’ve been a millionare. And if while listening to the Shirelles’ Baby It’s You he sometimes made the mistake of spilling his gin and tonic on the carpet well then (what can I do when it’s true?) that was okay but it didn’t make him any money either (over you what can I do?) like doing crossword puzzles or laughing loudly in parking lots or making lists of all the knots he knew how to tie and untie too.

Friendlier than most French Fries was how the ketchup described the pickles to the hamburger patty. Whence came the bun? (later later always later) It was the fugacious nature of horseradish that worried most of the staff but we had parties anyway and besides there was music clinging to the most horse-heavy among us.

Troupes of foreign trombone-trained troops altered the stance of the burgeoning guild of crane operators when it came down to cases of delirium and tympanum trauma. Not to be outdone by happenstance the mission docents abandoned their posts and learned how to install shower doors. Books were freezing. Lines mistook circles for second cousins. Whittled from elm stumps were the wooden donkeys on the mayor’s front lawn. The mayor made a short speech in which he said let’s look into the heatlamplight or the candlelight or the microwavelight or the trafficlight or the TVlight or the brakelight or the porchlight or the nightlight or the flashlight or the computermonitorlight or the firelight or the windowlight or the digitalclocklight or the starlight or the movieprojectorlight or the flourescentlight or the sunlight until we go blind.

Worry stalked the butcher in broad daylight (brighter than what was previously believed to have been possible) as he wallowed around in his yellow jumpsuit and took in the freshly emptied garbage cans. For what it was worth he never much cared for the taste of Frangelico. The butcher had a dream one night that he was being followed by the sun. It was always at his back shining down on him and there was no where he could run to escape it. (run run run runrunrunrunrun)

Yeast rose to defend its toasty misgivings about rummaging through the breadcrumbs of disaster that it had fallen among. The escarpment of the oven’s door scraped the baking sheets while envigorating flawlessly executed persuasion over cooking time.

Dippy moaning from wheelchair salesmen put the weening of purblind aesthetes off of Raisinetes on hold. Nothing could be done about the rest home resident’s malcontent over snack time being pushed back to 10:30 instead of the customary 10:15 because there were certain discrepancies among the vendors as to when they could actually make their deliveries in the morning.

Quintesential wingmen were hard to come by that summer. Eyebars were rotting on all the truss bridges and it was a cinch to grab weaker souls by the gullet and make like wine. Ranch hands had to hold off on chewing the fat (baconless) because we were not on time to the rodeo but the clowns let us in the service entrance. Leading was a pace Lenny could always hold (grabbed) off on.


Clambering down the stairs (anvils of feetpounds) hasty and protesting (shoutless) in a dense fabric against letting go.

Sid says sometimes a yes means maybe so. There is a definite end to the no if it jiffies its way in a jiffy to drink the milk of speech. The warranty is not covered says Sid in the warranty. Shrink and shell the goggled men and women of the 484th calvary in the Peanut Butter Revolutionary Skirmish. This face is not my face is not on fire is not melted off my face this is my face not just my face but something unusually attached and normal too no longer in front of my face but still behind my eyes so says Sid.

Fractitious characters appeared all the time in the days of free-wheeling deep-sea divers scrounging around for loose change among the detritus of their ocean-bottom lives.

(an afterthough to the cheery plain-as-day old-time-religion kind of rhythmic plunking that happens on occasion)


there lives a cat in the lobby of my building

i imagine it a lady made of porcelain and tears

she grimaces at me as i go by unsteady and limping

holding me accountable with whiskers and meows

hastening to my side when the walls rumble

under the thunder of trashtrucks and drunks

she sometimes suns on a ledge below the front door’s window

i lift her up when i come in

scratch her head and stroke her back while she purrs

and set her down gently

as i would a glass figurine

on the stairs

one night i found her hunched hidden underneath a car

parked outside

in the rain

all frazzled and skittish

and woebegone too

I picked her up

brought her in with me

dried off her maroon and mustard-yellow fur

and kissed her nose before letting her scramble off

her escape thwarted

her life forever changed

i dream that she’s not lonely at all

and that somewhere

between a ball of yarn and some fancy feast

she’s fallen in love too

when i key my way inside my place

prying the stuck door open with a tender tug

that cat runs to me

like the crazed woman she most likely is

trying to stop me

or get me back

into her life

or drive me as insane as she

and I hurry in

bolting the door closed

thankful that

for now

I have

at least

this little peace

while she moans and whimpers outside my door

until somebody else comes along

to sweep her on away

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Washington Square Park

It has come to my attention recently that Sylvia hates pigeons more than I do, which I thought to be impossible. But she does, and I don’t begrudge her for it. We lunch together every day. It isn’t quite enough for either of us, but it’s the best we can do for the time being. There’s a place we meet—usually around 2 or 2:30, or somewhere thereabouts—in Washington Square park. Sometimes a lady is there who suns in her motorized wheelchair. She puts the back all the way down and lies there as if she were lounging in an outdoor hospital bed. If Sylvia is running late (which is quite often, as she has little respect for the way watches and clocks keep time) I will do my waiting on one of those short-backed green wooden benches that line the walkway wending about the park’s perimeter. There is a motorcade of Segway riders who stop at the park on most afternoons. They disembark their scooters, lining them all up in a row on the sidewalk, and amble around with their shiny orange helmets still strapped on, throwing bread crumbs to pigeons, petting dogs, and doing some general prancing and jabbering. I like to watch them. I don’t know why. Displays of the absurd like this often bring me great joy, and joy is something I find hard to find, so I take what little of it I can get. They don’t hang around for long, and have usually whirred away by the time Sylvia arrives.

The trees in the park are not kept in the best of condition. A few of their gnarled branches hang low enough so as to almost pop me a good one on the head if I’m not sagacious enough to duck. Mostly they’re pines stretching out their prickly arms festooned with tiny pinecones, and maybe some cypress and spruce too, a few strung with dangling viny moss-like stuff that reminds me of seaweed or witch hair. I’m not sure. Many of them do things like weep and droop and let fall their leaves, which crumble, crunching underfoot, as the pine needles gather to the wind’s embrace, sprinkling the grass and tattooing the sidewalks, scattered about like thousands of uncooked spaghetti noodles. I am no expert when it comes to trees. Most of these observations come by way of Sylvia, who understands such arboreal matters better than I do. If she describes a tree’s bark as being pumpernickel, I do not doubt the veracity of it, though when I tell her “pumpernickel” means “devil’s fart” she puts a pout in her face that means, “Why do you have to ruin everything?” It’s done lovingly though, as I know for a fact that she finds this fault of mine very endearing. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Sure, I might be fooling myself in this regard, but if one can’t fool one’s self, then whom can one fool? As a fairly decent man once said, “Just let me keep my beautiful illusions. The rest is eyewash.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but you get the picture.

People lie supine on blankets, spreading across the grass under the gildings of afternoon sun. Slimming shadows stretch and leak between games of catch, twirling Frisbees, croquet balls, the terse swiftness of tai chi disciples, and parties of touch footballers. The spires of Sts. Peter and Paul Church rise to the north, and I often gaze up at them and wonder about God. This doesn’t last long though, as I am easily distracted. All around me the boomcrush of traffic prowls its course around the park, which is bounded by Filbert, Columbus, Union, and Stockton. The buses crawl up to the curbs and heave their weary moans, unloading off and loading on the hordes of anxious MUNI riders who pass through this way every day. You never have to wait long for a bus to arrive around the park, but the ride will surely be stop-and-go slow and fraught with claustrophobia, as these lines are the most crowded and turtle-paced of the fleet. A feeling of distant calm will often waft over me as I marvel at this spectacle from afar. To be not of the chaos, but near enough to know its taste is always somewhat of a tranquil pleasure.

Sometimes Polaroid Millie will stop by and take my picture. She’s been a North Beach fixture for many years, tugging her Polaroid camera along with her through all the bars, and selling the uniquely styled portraits she takes of the patrons right to them for as little as 5 dollars. “Rugose, cheery and bright-eyed,” would do well to describe the constant state of her face, and many of her teeth have gone the way of Beta videotapes, but the ones she has left are quite nice. I’ll chat with her, tell her how young she looks, and hand her a five for her instant-film depictions of my person. Her Polaroid portraits are not to be taken for granted. I horde them all in a drawer reserved for such priceless treasures. On occasion my head will be cut off, or she’ll snap a blurred shot of me while I’m stumbling, or maybe I won’t even be in the picture. One time she shook over to me a still-wet white-bordered image containing a black Labrador that had been sleeping on the bench next to me. I told her she’d gotten my good side for once. She laughed and showed me all of her wonderful remaining teeth. I even have one of Sylvia and me; neither of us is looking at the camera; we had other things on our minds that night. Sometimes it’s hard to take your eyes off somebody. That was one of those times I guess.

The old Italian men who sit smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, soigné and at ease in their fusty, flood-water suits on the benches by the park’s northeast corner, will often speak kindly to me if I choose to sit in their vicinity. They are of a gentle ilk, and enjoy my company. These genial septuagenarians have a predilection for knock-knock jokes, and of this genre of humor I am well versed. I give them a few good guffaws, and they teach me a few Italian phrases. It is not such a good trade off though, as I can rarely remember any words of another language, nonetheless try to pronounce them. But there are worse ways one could spend one’s time than mingling among old Italian men in démodé suits while waiting the arrival of one’s better half.

Avoiding pigeon droppings can be a difficult task in the park. I’ve become rather efficient at it though. It might be that I’ve developed a sixth sense when it comes to the location and bowel habits of the pigeons around those parts. The things one hates are often the things one is most aware of, attuned to, or, sadly, consumed by thoughts of. Pigeons swarm my nightmares. They pluck out my eyebrows and peck at my toes. To say that I abhor the very idea of a pigeon’s existence would be a grave understatement. But Sylvia’s level of hatred for pigeons is even more admirable. She, unlike myself, applauds the murder of these “winged rats” by any means necessary—though she does realize that poisoning them only leads to bigger problems upwards on the food chain, which might even come to endanger us top-of-the-food-chain creatures. It’s more about intimidation with her. She will chuck rocks at them, and scream bloody murder if one of them even happens to dare close enough to warrant it. (Anywhere within a stone’s-throw radius will usually do to incite her to these acts of violence.) Sylvia fancies herself the Genghis Kahn of this pigeon war, and will stop at nothing to rid the earth, or at least certain parts of San Francisco, of them. I’ve never seen her kill, but do not doubt that it’s possible, though would not want to be around when it happens. I have a weak stomach when it comes to such things.

A wide expanse of grass runs across the park’s sloped craggy torso, and the slender trunks of willowy elastic trees rise like acupuncture needles stuck into its gut. I tilt my head back and put my arms up on the back of the bench, sliding my bottom out to the bench’s edge, as its low back is very unsuitable to this reclining position for a gangly fellow like myself. The sky might be flecked with thin strips of cirrus clouds that spool like dental floss, or maybe a band of migrating birds is winging recondite V-patterns in the thin, paling, salmon-tinged wash of the sun’s decline. I’ll try to whistle, to no avail, as always, and instead will start to hum something like When Johnny Comes Marching Home. It passes the time. If I am unlucky, somebody’s leash-less dog will prance over to me, panting and aflutter, and will commence drooling and slobbering all over my pant leg. Petting dogs is okay, and I partake in this ritual, scratching it behind the ears and calling it a, “Good boy,” and all the likes, but my heart’s not in it. I will forever love only cats. There is nothing to be done about it. It is too late in the game for me to change my inclinations when it comes to certain things. Either way, the wet mark on my trousers always gives Sylvia a good chuckle.

Behind one of my favorite benches—which is long and very accommodating, and, because of its habitat ‘neath umbrageous foliage, rarely occupied—there are patches of weeds sprouting here and there amongst a large accumulation of woodchips. I have no idea whose idea it was to spread these particles of biomass about here, and I cannot fathom why, but they cover quite a large expanse of the area between the sidewalk and the bench. I avoid walking on them at all costs, as I am not thrilled by the prospect of splinters stabbing into my feet. My thin-soled and many-holed Vans were not made for walking on such rough terrain. Padding along the park’s blackened walkway, which is composed of millions of small pebbles and cracked with juts of tarry gunk, without stubbing my toe is enough of a challenge. An antiquated spinach-green lamppost resides close to the bench. Its top is an opaque white orb during the day, but by night serenades the moths with a hazy sodium-yellow glow. The back of the bench has a silver metal plaque affixed to it which reads: “In honor of Elizabeth Livermore.” I have no idea who this person is, or possibly was, nor why this bench was dedicated to her, though I have speculated to Sylvia that she may perchance be one of the founders of that dear nuclear-famous city to our east. Sylvia thinks she was an under-appreciated bacon aficionado who was raised by Indians in a hidden village nestled snugly between the peaks of Mount Diablo, and who introduced her famous salt-cured bacon to the miners in the gold-rush days, sizzling and selling the thick, tasty strips out of a small storefront next door to a bordello. I have no reason not to believe this story.

Late as ever, Sylvia arrives. I pretend to ignore her when she drifts her way gracefully towards me, and then, gentle as a lamb in the bible, drips her lithe curves down and curls in next to me on the bench. She nudges me with an elbow to my shoulder. I look over in her direction, but pretend not to notice her presence. Instead I look quizzically over into the street, and then brush my shoulder where she’s tapped me, crafting a confused crease into my countenance, as if baffled over this strange occurrence. But she manages to catch my eye, and winks at me, and it is so sweet, so goddamn adorable, that I can’t help but crack a smile. My heart melts like a popsicle on a hot summer day, and I put one of my wiry, lanky arms around her. Her head falls into the crook of my arm, and we recline there on the bench without a word, gazing up at the trees and the sky and whatever else happens to be up there.

“You’re late.”

“No I’m not. You’re just early.”

“But I was here at…”

“You know I don’t have a watch.”

“But I…”

“I know when I’m here. I’m here now. And you’re here too. That’s good enough, isn’t it?”

It’s hard to argue with Sylvia sometimes, and mostly I don’t even want to.

We sit there like that—her head cradled close to my chest, our hands all tied up together in crazy knots, my nose lost to the blossoms in the wilderness of her hair—for what could easily pass for forever. At some point maybe we get up and go find a place to lunch. Or maybe we don’t. At this point it never really seems to matter.