Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Sad Tale Of Harrison And The Flamingo

            Harrison spent his afternoons sitting on a bench at the zoo by the flamingos. The stink of it was something he came to call mudwart. Feces and the sour-mash reek of standing water. The flamingos were white and pink, some with dark black feathers in their tail, and their legs were like crazy straws that bent backwards as they squatted or puttered about. A dozen or so of them lived in the small enclosed space, with a swamp and some mud around the edges. There was a chest-high fence around them, and it seemed ridiculous, watching them, that they couldn’t just leap right over it and be free. But they couldn’t. They just plodded around in circles and pecked at the ground. Harrison enjoyed this fact immensely.
            The kids would gather and run amok, their parents chasing them around, and then they’d get lifted up and away to another exhibit. Harrison was always glad when they left. He enjoyed being alone with just the flamingos.
            “Hey, Juicy Fruit. Why don’t you get out of my sun, huh?”
            It was the tallest flamingo, and it was directing its query at Harrison.
            Harrison just sat there, his arms outstretched on the bench’s back, his hands dangling, his head at a contemplative angle. He looked up at the sky’s litter-- the dull clouds of an overcast afternoon milling about, a speck of sun grimacing behind them, the whole thing like a murky urine-soaked rag-- and he wondered about the dust that gathers on flowers.
            The flamingo barked, “Hey. You! Dick lips! I’m talking to you.”
            Harrison pretended to be lost in a reverie, staring skyward, tapping his feet to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home. A few stray white feathers floated by on a soft gust of wind, and Harrison swiped at them with an absent-minded swipe. He was contemplating dinner at his favorite seafood restaurant, the one where he could sit at a table by the large front windows that filled with moonlight and watch pedestrians go by. It made his lips form a slight smile.
            “Hello? Fuck nuts? Get the Shinola out of my sunshine, Dippy. Don’t make me come over there and do it myself. You will not like me on that side of the fence. I promise.”
            The flamingo was now bobbing its way over towards where Harrison was sitting. It came to the fence, stopped, turned around a few times, shook its head, spread its wings and made some feeble attempts at flapping them, and then turned its head to gaze at what Harrison seemed to be gazing at in the sky.
            “Um. Oh, well, sure is shitty out, huh?”
            “Yep.” Harrison mumbled over a weak burp.
            “What the hell sticks are you looking at up there? Seriously. It’s just a bunch of fucking gray clouds, and, well, look at that, will you! There’s some sun up there, see?”
            Harrison did see. He wondered how he could be in the way of it. It was so far above them, so obscenely far away. It was impossible that a little dot of a thing like him could get in its way.
            The flamingo ruffled its feathers. “Gawk, gawk, gawk. You silly fucking nut job. That’s all you do. You come here and gawk the fuck away at us. And we just stand here like idiots, a gaggle of us…”
            “A gaggle?”
            “Oh, fuck. Whatever. A flamboyance, a flurry, a stand, a regiment. A fucking bunch of us, okay?”
            “Okay.” Harrison cracked his neck a few times and yawned for effect.
            “And what do we do? Nothing. We can’t do shit. We just stand around and nibble at the mud, take dumps in the water, have staring contests. It’s not the most exciting of lives to be living, let me tell you, Suck Pants.”
            “You got a mouth on you, don’t you?”
            “Shit. If this beak could...oh, fuck you. I get it.”
            Harrison laughed and mussed his own hair with both hands.
            “Bet you’d rather I never piped up, huh? You’d like it if I just shut up and kept minding my own, like always. Putting up with all the savages who come here and rattle the fence and shoot spitballs at us. Fucking gawkers. Fucking savage gawking motherfuckers.”
            Harrison stood up. “You know what?” Harrison wasn’t sure whom he was addressing. “You’re kind of a dick.”
            The flamingo kicked its weird little rubber-like feet at the dirt, turned around, and wobbled its way back to the water. It dunked its head beneath the water and stayed like that.
            Harrison kicked at the pebbles and dead leaves and food wrappers on the cement, turned around, and skipped off towards the zoo’s carousel. He had two dollars in his pocket-- just enough for a ride.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

as the bus turns

            As the bus turns I find I am not writing it down. Something akin to, “The unimportance of this phone call is tremendous. We had a cabin, perhaps, somewhere in the mountains. The terrain bubbly with grief and joy. The fairness of it all, what happiness happened, it all jumps beyond me still. There it is if it is we who should shoulder a bench to sit on and watch the rain, the scent of which I can’t quite remember properly. Rock walls. Or was it logs? Just as all things could be cabined, here there goes another vanishing hold on what only live violets know-- or knew, as it were. My computer no longer knows what time it is. My head deals in rock salt and vinegar, peppermint, and what names will come for my firstborn. The weather is now under us.”  
            You can blame me for the construction of unknowns. I build them out of bastard parts. A sparse willingness curbs the bus, and we nod onward without moving. It isn’t daylight that strips me of the power to care. I don’t know what it is. A cause on loan from the bishop factory. Something cussed with a briny flavor. Something clarified in the butter of justice. A weeping that isn’t slight.
            A skim of wheels, brought into the world blighted and sizzling, sings Glory Be Thy Name, Tupperware. It is selfish to be flighty in stucco claims to infamy. We are all holders of our own spirit, vessels of suspect carapace. A cheek to turn. Over worn and grown thin. Here are my worst habits. Take them from me and drown them with the rats. Foreign cucumbers grow their own tongues, you know, and then they speak something almost like this: “V! Crack a LMNO for all the peas everywhere. Don’t gush, tubas! I am braver than a whisk. Egg me and I’ll scramble. Loot the weathervanes from all the rooftops. We can have nakedness while we can’t have peace. Star-rock sea dragons sleep in the sidewalk. I called! I swear it! Don’t mope through my wailing. I’ve got it almost all, and I would put it all almost everywhere. Equal equals we are in the rinse of streetlamp light. Make my water with dirt-flavored lemonade. I don’t grow like that anymore. See to it, then. See to it! Blasé!”
            A microbe picker stopped in on the way to Jerusalem and hitched a halo ride from a bell-tower watcher. He owned up to wondering aloud, “Is there nothing really left to misuse?” It briefly figured. Then it didn’t.
            What is love?
            So, this shorty pants guy comes into The Store. He’s bought off. I can tell. So, he’s sailed too far in his gaseous explorations of what was happening on his ceiling, or in it. He says to or with me, “It is pincers, man. Justification of a grand for a dollar’s worth. I’m up to it in shrill mistakes. I’m down for it all, anyway. Take my hat, please. Get it? Party pooping is the way. We all just walk along with it, or on it, or in it. I got this brother-in-law, hell, he deals in stamps and pork-and-beans logic. That’s a fucking shored milieu of crap, if you get me on one of my sunnier days. He’s a horse shooter, really. Puts it all out to pasture. Creeps most folks out. Shit. I stay close to cordoned off about that stuff. And here I am blabbing on about it. Shit. I get tired, and, well, the weather round here gets to me. The crust of the afternoon sinking in. The blown smoke of it all. I’m dusty with rearranging my own deeds, and deed-nots, really. Groggy and slow to rise, I get what’s cooking for the most. Take what’s what and fall right up the stairs with it. Shit. That’s a meddling that I’d rather go on without. And then I got me a nephew. Kid named Linus, for Christ’s sake. And he bowls you over with his schemes. Hatching stuff on a daily basis, that kid. Venus flytraps in his room and shit. He’s a nut, that one. Hoping the flying saucers lift him out into his true home out there in space, you know? That kind of shit. Well, I do what I can. Here’s another truth for you.”
             Slammed with crowds. Everyone gets up at some point. Everyone leaves. The driver’s reading yesterday’s paper. We are all coiling for one last bar-happy day. Passengers don’t get breaks. It’s all spilled together and running away. A music-box tilt of joy creaks through. We learn to stay awake by standing up sometimes.
              “The garter snakes are loose in a battle for your legs. Pressure’s off. The keys are snuck. Things are mostly what they seem. Coffee and sandwiches. Cold ham and warm pickles. It’s what it ain’t, just pools and swings, and holidays in Plymouth testing out a supersonic parachute.”
            She smiled at him and licked her lips, roving eyes concealed behind dark sunglasses, lizard-skin purse lazily strung over a shoulder, while tilting her head to the side and sticking out her chin.
            “I wouldn’t know.”
            “I know.”
            A twitchy scrunch to her zygomata, a tell of a sort, that gave credence to his belief that she was just in it for kicks, just for a light thrill and then it’d be done for good. She’d move on and away, not even a postcard between them again. And it was something he knew but couldn’t admit, or wouldn’t, if there were a difference. For now it was just holding onto what he could before it all went and slipped away on him. Life was just a stupid routine to mold yourself into. It was just a drag, something to be pulled along, and he’d had enough of futilely struggling against it. Instead he messed around with her hair and ran his hands through her clothes, tangling himself up in what he could of what still remained his to hold.
            (insert happy beginning here, along with the hint of a sadder end)
            Words lumped together, oatmeal on the breath, and it’s trying not to rain. Nobody believes in going outside anymore. It’s all beached. Stay in. Watch the weather work itself out. You’ve got your own solar system, and it’s over there, too far to get to know. Throw a tarp over it. Leave the rest to dreamy afternoons, and let the planets go their own way. Fast, staying tuned to scoop selfless helpings, turn it over and let the twine unravel all across the floor.
            On the stop, blur train travel into a broom-swept dust. Vacate the bus station bar where the dropouts lounge around and stare at strangers. Given to orders, and what we’ll never let on about. Just the sip that goes down sour, that quench that never is. Only a costly wish-you-were-here-or-there, and then it is a done’s last deal.
            “I remember you alright at the Fairmont Hotel. Your drinking of Scorpion Bowls was a legend.”
            “This cross, well, it just ain’t doing the job no more. Not like it used to could.”
            “We had none of it, and were having it all.”
            “My love, I leave it hanging from the window for all the world to see.”
            “It’s all dirty dishes to me.”
            The poof of gray above those pinball eyes staring through the bars of her living-room window as if she were in jail. The TV’s blaring behind her. A skuzzy lilt to her features. A roach-like ambivalence. A tender touch of woe escaping between the bars of her self-made jail. The children going by are unmistakably happier than any luck she’s ever known. She stares and stares as day folds into night. There is nothing else to do.
             The fog’s thick teeth in all this, gnawing on the world’s woodwork, hiding the degenerates and the bums who stalk the night with ragged ideals and a hankering for trouble. Increasingly on the dole, checking out all the cashiers sashaying through it with a few after-work drinks in their step, hanging their hat on a tree branch, getting decorous with their dreams and lost-cause ambition. It sparks a light from a not so steady retreat, and the heavy wet slops through everybody’s hair. 
            The sound of tires skimming over a wet spot in the road is bacon’s frying-pan sizzle. I am not writing this down. The bus loses its trolley poles. There is a collective groan from within. The driver swings open the clear plastic door that separates him from the passengers, puts on a yellow safety vest and thick gloves, and climbs down the front steps to go out and put the poles back on. There is nothing to do but wait. Behind us the other bus comes up, and then passes us, streaking by with a buzz and a whirr, rattling away on up ahead. Much clanging and clattering and banging around can be heard, as the driver pulls on heavy ropes attached to the poles, trying to realign the slots in the ends with the cords above. He seems a bit like a puppeteer, artfully toying with the slackened bight of rope in his hands, making the poles dance and swing back to the lines. Finally, the lights in the bus come back on and the engine springs back to life, and a slight sigh of relief comes whispering out of the passengers as the driver hops back on board. Motion comes again, and we are off. I write nothing.            
            There is no blunder that’s blurring what’s wrong with hellos. Batter down. It’ll prove little or insistent in the description of two human beings scurrying towards distance. All that not said, get loose or stay put.
            A little welt of euphoria swelling up in a carved-out nook in the back of your brain. “Tell the neighbors we’re rigging our house for a flying prize. I have acquired a book of knots, maybe.” Something of that nature. Or when the cage of your emotional makeup is no longer enough to contain the looks she’s giving. A punch to her eyes that swipes chicory notes from tame decisions. It yaps its own yelling. If you can imagine it then it won’t ever happen. Such is the stuff of negating positive effects in dream logic, or the vices of diversion, or unwilling hallucinatory madcaps of painting the dullest of pictures bright. It is contrary to every indication of real-time wakefulness to be drawn ineptly into the mushy confines of imaginings. At least that’s what the footsloggers are spelling out with their shore-leave spending.
            The morning’s rushed with blame. She takes her time with sugaring. She winks when it is necessary, softer and sipped out of coffee. Rising where it is not funneled to worse or better off things. She’d sweep a kiss to the stars and sponge dry a licked stamp if that’d matter to you. A certain crooked tilt to her closed mouth, her lips swim synchronized. The blowsy trees can’t give away her shape. Only the matters that matter form the frieze of her gestures. She’d hint, “A lanyard for your fishhooks,” but never put it aloud.
            “If we had kids.”                 
            “No. If.”
            “Then we’d pray for something. Then what? Love?”
            “Somewhere. Then. Maybe.”
            The spark and wheeze of hydraulics, the spinning chortle of thrust, and then there is the silence of stoplights. There is nothing so quiet as being on an idling electric bus. If nobody on the bus is making any noise, there is no sound, and the moment can be almost beatific in its purity.
            And then comes trouble? Maybe just a Great Curassow greeting newcomers into old haunts, divvying up the feed best it can. A sea dragon carved into a shedding eucalyptus trunk with a butcher knife. It is awful to be constantly aware of the presence of mosquitoes. Keep you up until morning’s first. Generic rights to triviality lie mortified in suspense for the duration of time-lapse lives.      
            Put a photograph of the moon in your back pocket. Keep a hydrangea in your buttonhole. Make flour go sooty with cocoa powder. Peel a tomato. Seek honor in the beaks of giant crows gliding close to the beach sand. Be hostile and happy. Love will smuggle itself beneath the doormat.    


Sunday, August 19, 2012

cold burritos and warm beer

            CHARLES DICKENS: Hell, it’s probably kind. The ways we’d get to know strangers, if we could. It’s our tell. Mine, yours, the rest.
            EMINEM: They are who we define them as being. Nothing but what we dress them up in.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Smalltalk gone awry. A barely noticeable slump in the shoulders, something to ward off possible prey or other erratic enemies who stalk our lives in these insulated surroundings. A cold shrug. A glance gone out to pasture. The irreducible minutiae of dodging conversation. We start to believe that we only are what we make others think of us. A snide comment, some scoffing, the outer limits of personal space. And then we hunker down for the longest of nights, alone, out of touch, lazing easy into the comfort of not having to guess at where life’s immediately headed, not taking any chances, safe and warm, sleeping in, creating our own worries to keep us occupied without any real difficulties getting in the way.
            EMINEM: Shameful, the hours we spend. TV gazes, hypnotized by the glow, fake fatigued, schlepping our own emptiness, lying lower than down.   
            CHARLES DICKENS: We take what the popular ideal gives us, and then bask in it, from Hi-Def screen to shiny iPad screen. 
            EMINEM: And the commercials run away with it. But perhaps something brings us out of it. The gelid sting and whip of the brisk morning wind daggered through an opened window. Something real starkly biting into the skin of things. We get what relief we can, or take it from the slightest prick of skin, something that reminds us that we’re alive and not just dazed automatons only fit to consume and be consumed.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Perhaps.
            EMINEM: And every October knows the scent of July. We sign our names with the push of a button. It is posh. It hibernates, responsibility dropped to the floor like crumbs, and our regrets never mount as they should, ignored, joked around, and doled out to oblivious strangers. Click, click, click. Like me. Please. Like me.
            CHARLES DICKENS: The herders have become the sheep.
            EMINEM: I find myself stemming off loneliness with filler. The hours become obstacles to get past, to make replete with the foam peanuts of life. Waiting for some certain timeframe to come around, a place where I can put myself and be alive in. And it all goes by, each year’s passing celerity more than the last. The weeks add themselves up into months, and in a heart’s prayer, before you’ve got time to write a rent check another one’s due. And all that’s left is a misty tang of what might’ve been left on a tongue’s tip that’s better off forgotten and moved beyond.
            CHARLES DICKENS: On to the next big thing, and then another, and then the new and improved model, and then another, ad infinitum. Better days always just up ahead, just around the proverbial bend, perpetually just out of reach. And we keep moving by standing still, staring at what’s turned out to be the path-of-least-resistance curve of our lives.
            EMINEM: Sure. Like, send the deed after me and I will sign the fucker.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Not even a glance at what we’re signing away.
            EMINEM: The rigging of a game we don’t even realize we’re involved in. And our reward? A trip to the incinerator. The difference we make is so meager. It shouldn’t matter. We are but microscopic dots on a landscape that stretches farther than we have the ability to imagine. It is in our insignificance that our hope should reside. But it don’t. It just don’t. 
            CHARLES DICKENS: We are smaller than we think, or dare to. Okay. Well, that seems a decent enough notion.
            EMINEM: All the surf Nazis are dead. Nuke the kitchen utensils. It’s an adaptation to the great blue unknown. We greet troublemakers with Uzis. I travel the back roads with my pants down.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Are you sure the main traffic artery was dragged for losers?
            EMINEM: Pretty.
            CHARLES DICKENS: And where were you?
            EMINEM: With my Angel Island Baby, of course.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Figures.
            EMINEM: It doesn’t, really. She worries about the oddest things, and I know the sound her heels make on the stairs by heart.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Divide the blue. We get a share somehow, still, and the echelons of remorse blow out more tires than nails. 
            EMINEM: We laugh at the cinema. Good old Sergie bows to the hospital art, out of line-- as if anyone could be serious about Old West landscapes-- with all the glitzy appurtenances of the foot-shuffling generation going stale in the new-carpet-tinged-with-coffee aroma of store-bought escape. 
            CHARLES DICKENS: Like taking a dump in an airplane bathroom during some serious turbulence. The medium lethal dose of recalcitrance abrogated by those who’ve never fought tooth-and/or-nail against the slick mechanics of organization’s dullness.
            EMINEM: I fought Taco Bell and Taco Bell won.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Something in that vein. A gurgle of blood, at least, in the mouth of a heretofore serious man. A Lawrence of Arabia type perhaps, choking on assimilation’s retouched savvy, aboard a scurrying ketch that he rocks and rocks until it does its best imitation of toppling. In the end its journey only a circular one in the innocuous waters of a wave pool.  
            EMINEM: The malls are filled with the sound of Muzak. The piano players have all been harnessed and lobbed into a scrapyard to be smashed to squares by baling-press car crushers, then pulped into submission by the cold crosses of hammer mills. 
            CHARLES DICKENS: I die, therefore I am not.
            EMINEM: I’ve thirsted for smarter water than this, parched with pop-ups, icons of spiritless simulacra, abbreviated abbreviations, status updates, texted lust, spam filters, the buffering of broadbanded bytes, trademarked cool, over-touched tablets, the flash and wasted space of ephemeral memes, shifting moods willed by the instant attention of thumb-tapped quick-reply message.  
            CHARLES DICKENS: It’s wishful, our always incomplete agency of desiring. 
            EMINEM: Waste a lot, want a lot.
            CHARLES DICKENS: In the bag, we all are, without even a wink to reveal the wimpy clasp we’re tugging ourselves along by.
            EMINEM: And, so, well, you get it in your bean to go gallivanting about-- as people doth go where the dollar doth flow-- and in a puny glance towards the surroundings you chance to notice that the sidewalk trees all have as-is price tags hanging from their branches. You begin to crave to never be satiated, to want to always want, to be defined by what you like.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Ah. There’s the grubby box-brown rub of it. I am totaled by the punched keys of trolling pinheads who mistake me for my online avatar.   
            EMINEM: Cultivating an atmosphere which is at once tender and cruel, those black-market hooligans of freer enterprises trademark your name and your voice and your style. Lacking the proper privilege level we stalk unauthorized into blanketed decisions based on one-time experiences.
            CHARLES DICKENS: It’s wintertime and the dying is hard. Hell, it’s all whisky and honey to me. I jaywalk as much as possible, and buy my Band-Aids in bulk.
            EMINEM: Something yowling in the drainpipes. Ah, but my temper cools and flares, cools and flares.              
            CHARLES DICKENS: The white ash gone to maple. This terrible stuttering dampens my evenings with the cool flight of chickens of the trees.
            EMINEM: It’s somehow still like brushing green shoulders of Cherokee Purple tomatoes with Green Zebra and Bush Beefsteak. I could manage broiled sandpipers, black bear hams, palm squirrel stew even. But toothwort? Garlic mustard greens? Dinosaur kale? My head’s terrine’s crowded with dusty decisions I can’t quite seem to get around to making. And now? Now there’ll be spaghetti pie in outer space.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Very gallant, or glad at least, in the foxhole we call home. To become serious about the present. To take ourselves to task. It is upbeat, or very near it, and warbled long and weaseling to take the place of flowers, caressed into it-- a dandified gruel that marks the mush with scars of iron and rust.            
            EMINEM: Do The Strand.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Yes sir. The addictive quality of flitting from window to new window to new tab. Or perhaps it’ll have to be a “No sir” too, as the mercy around here’s been strained to witlessness. Uh huh. Love countervailed by worshippers of a phony faith. And yet still the clouds crumble like cauliflower bits, craggy and brushed, rib-bone stretched along in wayward clumps, broken tiaras, jumper-cable clamps, splintered seesaws, fleecy bits of robe, clown makeup gone awry in herringbones of hazy pale blue. The accordion music of leaf blowers rattles the windows. A derelict sprinkler gushes its sob story into the grass as streets are scraped clean by wind. A shuffle in the sky and everything dances in its own distance. Yep. Trouble’s the loneliest tattletale there ever was. Sure enough.
            EMINEM: I’m not so.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Sure?
            EMINEM: In the roundabout of it. In and over or through the summed restitution of easy-earned bucks, sequenced, diving in pairs, it loans and pays back at once. Well round me up to the nearest hallelujah and cry riddle-me-ree in line for the pisser. Some things just say without going.    
            CHARLES DICKENS: The yuppies are busy playing kickball and attending Pub Quiz nights, I hear.
            EMINEM: Sure. And so there’s left that cantilevered silence groped by behemoths of almost-holy financial institutions and greed/profit driven lives. Speak later or never lose your grip on war. Your emotions skinned, a layer of you stripped off like a wet sock. Think of it. We harness all of this damn energy to do our biding, using up the resources of unborn generations in the process, just so we can be wasteful and spoiled, and all we do is yap and gawk and snigger and take pictures of the whole infernal mess. But of course, not me. I’m, you know, better than that.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Of course. It’s always others. Never ourselves.
            EMINEM: Shit. We stink. We’re just as rotten. A couple of ass clowns on vacation from reality.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Yep. No better than…well, any old anybody else.
            EMINEM: Ohio’s burning, and we don’t do a thing. We merely coddle our computers and sit snug around a fire pit’s fake logs, which are probably made of leftover pencil-factory cedar shavings, and we burn marshmallows just to watch them burn.
            CHARLES DICKENS: Cozy. Aloof. Drones drowned afloat by an overflow of useless information. Gimmicky and entitled. A bored disaffection clogging our veins. The world is too much without us…
            EMINEM: Oh, why don’t you just zip it.