Wednesday, November 27, 2013

such a small thing

my love it is such a small thing
you can’t pick it up or drop it much
or try it on for size
or take it out to lunch
it deeks my better judgment
and rubbles smooth spilling its guts
or into the mathematics of the trees’ glossy mend
it whispers “potato salad” to a leaf’s tip’s bend

my love it is such a small thing
it’ll slip through any grasp that’d hold it
finer than hair follicles
it mushes and sloths and brooms with hurt
and it won’t beg or moan for more or less
it has what it is already
being empty and full of all that it holds

my love it is such a small thing
it dizzies and drizzles in the rills of a dream's palm
wrinkled and pressed
but nothing to touch
it makes its own logic from big hunks of dust
to sprinkle like powder on nothing’s “a bunch”

my love it is such a small thing
it wriggles and writhes in the margins of books
spread out and jumbled but exact just enough
to be erased or remain or coolly adjust
to a diet of pie touched with lost looks
and lobster-claw hands like pillows with hooks

my love it is such a small thing
it is heavier than a laugh but lighter than crow
and you’ll never catch a glimpse of it
no matter how far gone you go or forgo
it is inside and out and all over too
it runs in a spiral
and in the arc of a lune
it knows no steady course
but its path’s my favorite tune

my love it is such a small thing
it matters less than words
it travels less drooling than any hunting dog would
it smashes its lenses in the runny sky’s kilter
just to be off if it could
it rules and it kowtows
and when it flashes you’ll just know it
without seeing

my love it is such a small thing
smaller than the lilt and broken glass in your voice
as tiny as the daze of your crooked smile’s tilt
or the baize distance of your bunchy eyes
or the way of your hourglass on-tiptoe rise
delicately spooning out old coffee grounds
and its silence is you asleep purring almost not aloud

my love it is such a small thing
you can’t patent it or call it a cab
it’ll slither beyond any attempt at a nab
for its life’s just a curl and a moment’s gone wisp
a thing never noticed until it is missed
and then it’s forever and bigger than the world
or the universe or god
or any of that crud
because my love’s indecent and higher than above

my love it is such a small thing
and still smaller still
so it doesn’t require attention or praise or some dumb arrow
it’ll get on just fine being neutrino-large and largely ignored 
just so you know
so just leave it alone
don’t even phone
and watch how it’ll grow
smaller and smaller
if you will
and still smaller still

my love it is such a small thing
it roves indistinct
it marries the sunset to the subtlest wink
it perches in alcoves hidden in tears
it is nothing and everything and the kitchen sink
it slings gumdrops to crinkles of silver balloons
and muddies in marmalade its clown-paint face
but never goes in for an act that disappears
even in the loneliest night there’s always a trace

my love it is such a small thing
it swipes the bull from adore
and yells “ole!”
past the dropped red dress on your floor
it’s the bite of your violin sigh
it’s the tinsel’s twist in your style
it’s starry and rough and wornthrough and long
it’s a prayer’s soft luck and a crippling song
it’s a sewing machine’s rumble
or coloring’s crush
where angels get drunk
in the voicemail’s hush    

my love it is such a small thing
with nowhere to be put
it won’t float or drown
or stay or flee
or make up its mind or just disagree
so i keep it close and away
at once and for always
for never and for keeps
and for just the hell of it
i guess
like my sink’s dripping
some rhythm to have
when there’s nothing left to sing

don’t worry
i won’t mention any of this
to anyone ever
my love’s a small secret stashed and stowed in forever
and i won’t let on
that it’s in all of my ways
some specter that grovels and haunts all my stays
puts the world round and spins it through all of my days
i’ll be mum when it comes to all of this stuff
in public or private i’ll call it a bluff
don’t ask for my love
on any new or old day
because it’ll be gone
and here just the same

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Shovels & Rope

BLACK BART: Triple or everything, I’ll give it like I take it. It is moronic to idolize the famous. Swimming pools say more.  

IDA TARBELL: Trite. Convalescing. Out of it spins to in. There goes that 90-proof dame again, on the nowhere wagon to everywhere.

BLACK BART: But suspects line down the boulevard.


BLACK BART: Oh, that too. Bewildered, they haunt the long-gone rose gardens, they turn mugwort eyes on the fiasco and chew on egg rolls in the early AM.

IDA TARBELL: I know the shape of his shadow by liver, by spleen, by kidney and ileocecal valve. There are no escapes, only more entrances, more condiments and dressings.

BLACK BART: Suspicions that never rise much above the hips.

IDA TARBELL: Arise, my un-esteemed colleague. Tap that payment card at any pay station but mine, Sally old gal.

BLACK BART: There will be no credit cards in heaven. It’ll be a cash-only affair. I’m ordering my valet to bury me with my watch on. I think angels will vie for my attention if I glimmer and shine.

IDA TARBELL: The ants are beckoning. The yaks are becoming supper. Me? Don’t worry about me. I’m not going to live through any of this.

BLACK BART: Thought so. That’s analogous to chintzy querulous patterns of wimps ducking out of battles and confrontations. It is situational, no? There are more socks to wear than you’ll ever own. Get out in the sunlight and be you.

IDA TARBELL: Pale is my only accoutrement. Pasty and bland is my mise en scène. Look out above. I’m quite ready to not jump.

BLACK BART: I fought the yuppies and the yuppies won.

IDA TARBELL: The untold story of an unknown stranger’s life. Yes. That makes your eyes teary. That ruptures your little rapturous moment there, doesn’t it?

BLACK BART: If it’s Wednesday in the parched confines of another shoddy week’s work, then the Tasers are all set to Kill, and this while the beaten-to-death lie prone and proud on the asphalt.

IDA TARBELL: Muck it. Really. Muck all of it.

BLACK BART: Doesn’t have the same effect.

IDA TARBELL: No. But listening’s useless, there and then, and I’ve got hopscotch to play with the pleasantly and most willfully discharged marines you’d ever know, or not know for that matter.

BLACK BART: Don’t get to the point. Rile the faithful. I know the 100-proof smile you’ll be messing around with soon. Breath like a topped-off gas tank. Moods that reinvent themselves forty times a day. I don’t want powdered milk in my Cocoa Puffs. Breathe. Go ahead. Try it. Breathe. That’ll do.

IDA TARBELL: And the heart’s song is tuned to goodbye.

BLACK BART: Yes. Let’s wait for some accompaniment.

IDA TARBELL: The dash of hesitation that’s palling around with unrequited distance is a both-feet-forward kind of thing.

BLACK BART: I do, and I do not.

IDA TARBELL: Because of where we go and where we don’t. I am unlisted in hell’s phone directory. Dial M for missed.


IDA TARBELL: We are only what we think.

BLACK BART: Just a gull’s dream foraging for favor in the spray of _____, the mist of _____, or in droplets of ____ __ _____.

IDA TARBELL: _______!


IDA TARBELL: Please do not cross the yellow line. Do not bother the operator. Do not wish anything away. The fools are in the details. The roof’s about to collapse. It’s all steam and Moroccan scent on the way to getting away, on my way. If it were. If I could. Okay. I’ll stop singing someday.

BLACK BART: You’d know best. The stupidest among us rule with a plastic hammer and a blow-up fist.

IDA TARBELL: A cure for bad dreams, but not nightmares.

BLACK BART: A hypnotist’s cloak worn inside-out for none of the world to see. Demanding less, the sunsets flicker off into the wattle of the world. And me? I’m going for Shyest Guy On The Planet honors.

IDA TARBELL: The records we won’t set.  

BLACK BART: I’ve been settling for so long. I’ve forgotten how to be serious. Nothing goes together or stays apart very well. 

IDA TARBELL: Yes, we can’t. As I die and wheeze. Cool. Cool. Huh?

BLACK BART: Sure fired on Uneasy without a dot of distance blipped between them. Who was it who lay then, there, in the lying of whom, up before down, as it weren’t, sleeping, only?


BLACK BART: That’s not a direction. Nobody’s taking or following orders. Go on and rope off all the unclaimed territory, used as ever, in the potbelly of your eyes.

IDA TARBELL: Ditched, and tabulated in all loaded accounts of this is the wherewithal to not muster the Biff-Loman supporters to rally but to only cry.

BLACK BART: It’s all scratched and folded into my vocal cords. I say differently the same things with no difference in the casual lullaby’s passing. But we were all less than happier then.

IDA TARBELL: And it was all included in the framework, scars and cracks and wreckage and rubble and all. And my hands are no longer as lovely as they used to be.

BLACK BART: Just for a long while less. 

IDA TARBELL: The leaves here are more golden than we let on, more worthy of letting go.

BLACK BART: The Queen Of Ravioli is on the make, and I’m foxtrotting with demure savages in high-rise multiplex ballrooms. Here, there is so much gone and so much left.

IDA TARBELL: The way we weren’t, it tells the same story through and through.   

BLACK BART: And so other people are somehow supposed to know what the recently deceased would have wanted me to do? Hell, I don’t expect anything from anybody after I die. I won’t be around to know anyhow. You just do what you can and must and will, and you do it almost as well as you shouldn't.

IDA TARBELL: The past comes and goes. Let’s get some dark on the object. And run errands for the sappy in the big unjust. I haven’t become completely insulated from the elements as of late, yet, but then again, or now, I just want to read upside-out.

BLACK BART: Well, get his then. Something from Jackie’s limo ride in Texas-- “I have his brains in my hands. Jack, what have they done? Jack. I love you. This is terrible, Jack. I love you. Jack. I love you.”

IDA TARBELL: Something not of the sort, I mostly don’t see; and all of this while the tattoos of toothier goobers lose perceived value in the contextual confines of emulation’s choppy contractual obligations that are oh-so limited by supply’s demand. But me? I’m confirmed in my resignation’s desperation.

BLACK BART: Fucking tattletale.

IDA TARBELL: Who are you, who is anyone else to tell me what I need? I don’t need a damn thing. Not a damn thing at all. New York’s not on the skyline anymore. I’m rushing out of slowing down, and the moon’s new-penny bright scythe is slicing a spotlight out of the pitch in night’s blue-black felt skin. That’s all.

BLACK BART: It is, mostly, and then it is not too, mostly.

IDA TARBELL: Make it on your own. Or don’t. It gets lonelier here all the time.

BLACK BART: Slim up and fatten down. Ham. Ham. Ham. That’s about all I’m good for, or bad for not.

IDA TARBELL: Wish none of it here, but away to a cornfield like a Jack-in-the-box with a human head. Anyway, spring is for wussies. Fall is for the real standup-sitdown gals.  

BLACK BART: Every then and now we keep getting dry from distilling our souls too close to home in the alembic of hard, cold fictions.

IDA TARBELL: I bet we’ll touch on it before we die, though. Just a dab, a slight fingertip’s brush, a fallen smile, and then it’ll all be done.

BLACK BART: Be joyful, you fine-haired sons of bitches.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How Walter’s Drear Spumed To Spirited Indifference & General Interest

Walter left for Brunswick Bowl as the rain fell. “Knives.” And then, “Daggers? Stilettos? A thousand pointy diamonds dropped on rubber, or some hoof-plunk patter, some bubble-wrap plop. No. No.” It was counterintuitive to be thinking, comparing, placing nouns around. Help recurred, left him stranded at the bus station, no lettuce to go with his bread. It was just to get back, that’s all. Another shift in territory, odious and remote, to return but never stay.

What’s left of the drizzle is car tires skidding over damp cement. Permeable motion, a thistle’s prickly bract, and were it not for a top-heavy equilibrium we’d all be plunging likewise. No. Not close. 

The dark longs for more dark. Also, Walter’s brains got junked, scrapped, sold for spare parts. This was after the lanes closed, and, then, there was nowhere to leave for, or go to, or be from.            

The potted plants. Sam The Guy. Walter getting needled by the kids, again. Fish decomposing in the topsoil. “Brace somebody else.” Arrows evidently pointing to closer objects, and, “Behaving like a plainclothes dope, like in the midst of being whipped by Orion’s belt, like spitting towards the gutter, like chewing tea leaves, like undeniable parameters of not being just competent and content with it.” Sam The Guy. Yes. And. And. Yes, the potted plants, how they grew and failed too. The tilt and flush of Walter’s busy getting-by ways.

“Now I’ve got plenty of names to call myself.”

There were traffic stops to manage. Nouns to mispronounce. Metal alloys had it made because of carbon, because of aluminum and iron, because of composites, and because of rising temperatures and harder times. To not belong was the newest way to beat the evens, like even in the dampest drizzliest November of the soul too. Walter tried to say:

“We used to walk on beaches all the time, you know? There was splashing stiffed with taped-down plastic ruffling in some mild wind. And, that old terrible night. And, of course, that. Too, a clasping, a rig of surf tapered with invasion’s lilt. Traipses not yet set, in the funding. Another type of mailman, not on his way, early, and then young or under the kitchen table, guitar-less, and the shoes, those too, and the On Switch flicked to Always.

“What was it that we did? Whiffing, and then the coolness came. That’s right. And about the other, in that order, questions of obtuseness, subjunctive and moody, fluttered in the, what, corner. That’s it. Round and toward the light, now. At difficulty, laboring with ease. Soda blue in the rummy matters of those most not usual and sure. My love, it’s such a random thing.

“What? Showing on, and off, in the routine’s unoccupied use. Oil spreads the most pillow-less parts, tiny. The shells’ cut to the toe’s forgiveness, wrong? It is impossible to relate. The ratings are for suckers and off-duty potato-chip cops. Curt and somebody else’s everybody, or thing. Sorry’s not calling anymore, now.

“And? My fish is a mother. Tell me that from a few kitchens away, so. Dreamed to pastures fouler than these. Or the right that’s rigging, and more than ever now, that is modern and wrong, all, and, all. My fish. My love. The water’s gone uphill.

“Chisel my dreams into the tree trunks, still? It is ravioli time. Or the dance might be ending without me. I am, grit, not so holy anymore. Buy me breakfast so I can chase down the whole deal. The, Pontiac thunders, balmy, into is gone. Lying beneath it, hunting Missouri’s moon still, open the up, still, still. Lie. It pours done through a fist. Lots and little, without’s holding court. Sun’s glassed in. Don’t give up on the snow. Drift a little, small, on the radar’s blip, Glendale, and with it the silent-film stars talking it over, over plain plans of bagel-less nows. My mouth’s where words go to die. And so? And so the rest of us live, for a bit, and then go on to merry-less ways, demure.

“Was it old timey cowboy songs? The rage of rest is ruined with doves, with, too, grade-school charm and circling the living room’s pasture. Pitted. Let’s rosebush the column to sleep roused in other places. Top of the telephone wires to it all. My way’s all scruffy and mussed. I am not that same monster, now, or, anymore. What is that that never that you’re never supposed to do? Supposed to do. The second’s not the song, yet.

“What’ll we not do? Rail the way. Two not left. I haven’t been around. Not so much. A new haircut, same old point of view. In the trying, it all gets us, and time’s jogging around me, tilled to tissue, last the remaining and then get on without it. Any slide will do. Court the wild, recall the normal of this to the quaint of then. Minneapolis is raining for me. A mansion flooded with waiting. It’s best to, not never to, run to, rather than from. Or just not to be ever adored. Spiders on the wall. Robots on the pot. Open to no west’s east, closed for all the norths of any old south. 

“There it is, you, but this is, the looking, correct? Aside, but from all that, like handholds dangling down from the grab rail of a subway, just like little nooses. Is it passable, this what, to get in of it, out to ruses and roses, also? This room’s inhabited by strange customers. Not working around the job, and could the went tell? No ships leaving for in. Though the coffee sippers are on strike, for worse. And there are no minds in the found and lost collection. Mine’s unmade for good.

“Brush off to brushed, fumed lit to exhaustion that kicks in, or the effects of little-missed berating, consolation the cure for offices of the undergoing plain wilted crush of plumbed shallows. In restraint the offer’s under the hedgerow, the tallest of all correspondence gone dull, steady, cool. In near harrumphing, go. I don’t choose much, and the list is common, worn above the heart, that one through six last, it is believed, so, possible and run to be given out, in, for the very same miniscule amount of trouble. Let’s pretend that we’re brave, at most, and push a shopping cart through it all. Even the radio-selected come rooting home in the television’s roar.”
Then Walter said, “Call me Isaiah, or Shirley if you will. I’m not below it, but certainly not above it. Perhaps close to nipple-high with it, is all.

“But shit, there I just go, on and off, taking up the rear in funeral processions and methodically knocking people’s hats off again. 

“And so it comes to this:

“A coldwater flat with a bottle opener beneath the bathroom sink. This is what happens. There’s no window screen, ten floors up, and the heat’s scrambling in with the flies and the moths. The stink of it all is tremendous. Night comes on fast, and the streetlights pop up like a thousand sparks of flint, and I’m alone with, which is fine. The guy next door’s having a contest with some other poor sap to see who can talk the loudest. It’s all politics and showmanship and bullshit. I race the brake lights of the traffic fouling up the street below with my eyes. It’s something to be doing. I’m running out of ways to be me.

“A Pepsi-cola smile ribs at my baser instincts. And believing’s just another way to not get by very well at all. Figueroa’s asleep with the lights on. 7th street is on the make. And we’re all anything but bashful around here. Prop me up at the door and get the money from me, sure. The girls are colder than my freezer, and my insides are drowned trout. The night’s lounging around with a smirk clipped from The Personals. I get it. I do. I’m ruled out, thumbed to death, and broke to top it all off. For the record, most everything else is broken too, even the Do Not Disturb sign. Hell, the heater’s the only thing that works right.

“Worm in to it, buddy. Let’s forget our laughs and trouble the ceiling for a light. I don’t rust so well in the gut. Over the sun and lying low beneath nobody’s moon. Whatever chases and doesn’t stick around. Where the rain don’t go, that’s a place that keeps showing up and off for the likes of one last sucker dangling from a street sign, just like me. Burning holes through what we used to be, it is rare and chancy, and it gets along just so alright. The echoes in this place are about enough to drive anyone to madness.

“The Hollywood sign like un-struck matches in the distance, as the smog bellows in on mediocre dog feet, and I’m willing away my demons with a paper cup of whisky. The helicopter noise is the same as always. The children yip and the ruined houses rot, and the music of the street ricochets and rackets its way through a few stiff ones. The Chinese food I had for breakfast put up a good fight in my gut, but it didn’t end well for it, or for me. I know she’d’a smoked the lights out of this place, if it’d do. All the pleases have left the dark on again. And we’re wired with money for better things not up ahead. You can’t see it, so, here’s the deal, or there it isn’t. In the pleading, everything lies close. Do not stiff-arm my instincts for self-destruction just yet. Hell, here we don’t go. Not just yet.

“Testing out the hardest parts of loss, checking for worth beneath the pillow. It is sunnier to be leering at dead neon signs. Often is the wonder of now.

“It’s all a load of old socks. Let the antelope hunters go bill the vets for stuffing. It’s not instinctual, basically, to sit beneath wall-mounted elk horns twisted into each other like leaf-less tree branches. It is something that is just done. Not so that you’d pick apart the Max Capacity signs. For if the music keeps this up, well, the neat business-suit happiness will still reign, but something’s still far from lacking. The polished silverware shine of black, it, though helping, dictates chilled-vodka smoothness to the flashing beachfront news. I am only hardly found out, in typewritten testaments, in wonder’s gall, a simple ache gone squashed to a whine.

“Rise and sin. It seems every time I check somebody’s yelling, ‘All aboard!’ Or that’s where goes gone on to. Compassion’s gotten somewhat musty, here. The mirror makes up its own music, but nobody’s dancing back to it. The brunt of the hammering’s been done. To us? For us? Or would that be from? What matters is that it doesn’t.

“There is an earring in my mustard soup.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the title goes last

      “Sure, I got my foot in the door, but only to have that foot hacked off at the ankle, and the door promptly slammed in my face.” --    

the telling spontaneity of walking blue-taped to surer fires (bloody, if not) in the necessary equivalent of bottomed-out time (shared or spent) waking mushy, kind, ill-sorted, factually obsolete, encapsulated with worry (or from it), jest-lunging, set-to-tasks, or almost dull too in the robotics of it (that’s insistent) for what could matter and meekly grow weekly weaker, that too a robustness (called for or not) in the stationary lull of mailboxes clanking closed, in the rob and rot of it, in churched chance, in the shanked surface (for the winter’s up for it) that hurls in on the mess, inscrutable, of course, as the orders never get placed, last to the fence’s picket (never light or just for laughs) runs body-wise to the rescue, recourse to the harp hearted, refinement for the lower crusters, not pie-eared for now (at most), not ruining the beer bar for the better, not only the worry that goes along with all those whys, not numbered, not days (or the longing for them) rusting to nights, a better-this-or-that-way to carry along in a soldier’s pouch, just a rest for us (or them) too in the whale order of shoe strength, sure as shutters shut, not at all likely (in the weather to fly) if it caters to getting mad at the way flowers won’t grow    

Some cushy job, some Nerf life, some conspicuous consuming later, he went out and got himself killed. There it was, in the expanse of envelopes and tweed curtains, something to call far away about, or just to leave, kind of alone. He had none of the younger parts of a person you’d expect. To the latest, to the oldest spanked brand new, money was just an abstract concept, something to be whittled away and worn like epaulettes, something to show rank or lift in the power structure of soft living: a showy wattle-and-daub attitude and tempered-glass exterior covering up a fiberglass soul. A low skim of responsibilities nudged towards the next skipped disaster. Teflon for the moon’s mistakes. Gaudy stuff for the needy. He was always going about reaping what he’d never deign to sow. Some rudely established hierarchy of willful ignorance. Some spackled bunch of gloom, a glitch in the woodwork, a harp in the junkyard. Just another sap attempting to get famous without anybody noticing.     

You, sir, have got some serious reneging to do. On the surface we will not support it. Your taillights dim in the distance of whatever wake this turns into or out of.  Most persons are of the most uninteresting sort, you’ll find. They go bowling with the balls of others in rented shoes with their life. Am I to blame for the shortcomings of persons I do not wish to know, or even walk on the same side of the street with? You? Well, sir, that is about a third of the same story, in all the cases, covered, as it were, with your maligned dog-shit routine. Practicality is the same matter. Shame or no shame. Go under it; come in cleaner than most surroundings. I am not at all waiting around for it, though.

The years are long and strafed. We’ve got no defense. All the contesting’s done for. In peachiest instincts, get the cropped substance of what’s been had and taken. Nobody’s whistling. Color it all in. We’ve got lots of nowhere to get on to. If you’ve stopped listening, I don’t blame you.

Don’t get me right, there’s a speed we’ll never accomplish with the rainy way of things. All’s inherited with a squeegee’s swipe. A third’s full’s mostly empty. Got a reason here that needs taking. Music that crept by unnoticed on the water on its way to Peaksville. Sad is all there is sometimes, and that’s misery crowded out, left for where’d-you-be or chased-until-grown and the trouble with staying awake. Corner the pass. Greet the moment in placed stays. Quality’s in the lingering of worry’s solemnity. How aren’t you?

Reports on the world since you left it are all bad. I am not tipping well enough. There are mockingbirds in the basement. No truck tires. No hats or glasses. Just a room, a place to sit. The music’s for suckers, of course, and the dancing’s all out of quarters. Minding it, here, with just red socks and a martini glass full of olive juice. You don’t know the difference anymore. In the dirtiest resting place around, I guess it is fair and delicately gooey enough. All we own, or all we were, is displaced, rust-ribbed and charred with undoing. A rugged affair, and some things still go unnoticed. A slip towards the universal, and then pattering, and slowly a creak of steps, indistinguishable surprises or tactics sent packing, the movement of mush, and the streets have lost their shine while the onagers tame the rest of us into stability. Released hurry does its liveliest. Caressing’s gone the way of toaster ovens. A cube of frozen Sprite for your thoughts. Any? It’s a rip’s wave of sad. Loosed care hungering for a taker. List, and it gets worse and better, to the up of no down. There is no chocolate in hell, baby. And the highest ranking among the troops of now get hitched to better-off-without-them daydreams. Lyrics are meant to be sung. Me? I am not troubled. Not at all dangerous to the touch. And if the news runs on and off, it’ll be a resuscitated evening, something hard to spell, and in the middle of a laugh something worries itself out. Or, then, well, in the best of it you could clench a prayer and spook the neighbors. Traipsing gets me through. And if there is no “it” to have, then we’ll haunt the movie houses and the junkyards and bowling alleys, and the best rate going on coats checks the devils from my head. And if we fall in the rum, and the running gets us done, then the spool of whatever’s going to punch your guts out makes its own amends. Outlining the cascades of fallen leaves, and we dash and drop and get taken in and out for the lash of tomorrow’s tomorrow. We run on cash and candy bars. Something suits the necklace of being, in the harsher ways of being me. And I still dial your phone number in my dreams. At least there’s a liquor store close enough to feel like home. Out of cards. Caught up in the tenses of time’s lend. There are only pears here, and not a peach for miles. Not a robot in the merchandise. Not a curl of cream in the coffee’s cup. Let’s spread nothing but the old, in the bananas of our days, in the cusp of sopping dry, in the worms and in the sand. I am labeled Do Not Find. Age is wasted on the old. And, so, here I don’t go.

draining backwards

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

cold was the night and hard was the ground

            Promise that you’ll make wishes on the grain elevators that blow by off the highway as it screams along with me. Give the pan to a caboose or two, and the faces of geniuses camel up the worst of it, then the splatter bugs get their fate decided for them by wind and glass. Gone by in the giving that graces the presented gallop of information, like the way a horse gets when it whips full of beans, and you’ve got those catalpa tress of course, maybe lining a wide boulevard, or it could be just sand on the dashboard, and the cold shivering foetus of it all making irreverent speeches in platform shoes tooling alongside burnished triumphs of amphibian-breathed holiness, and all of this rudimentary gall-giving crater-happy silent treatment doesn’t do a burp of good among wardens and stalled vehicles. But getting the side view is necessary. In fact, speaking to Luddites with pin-tail souls is pergola-watching at its finest. After you retreat. The gaping Sunday-faced marrying along bloodlines, and the shoulders sag and the armpits drip and the lint sticks to chewed gum in breast pockets and flints and is flicked away, those who do such things, we make the dandiest little greeting cards, well, those who worrying are we-ing and whoopee-ing under the hard-packed dirt of another day to have to suffer through, those are plenty and they are left to themselves in keeping pennies and playing keep away with a box of doughnuts. “Come on over and get your reward,” sing the chariot racers, but there’s nobody to listen. Cascading past the ruins of the highway’s scarry past, sucking up all the sugar cubes, making speeches, getting tired of window-looking, fiddling around with a pocket book and scotching a few canceled checks, and the wind plays tricks on the stereo while a passel of july-bugs shadows by. Cordial, and willing at any cost, to bemoan the youthier currents of any suitable event, the boss stays put and paints murals on the ceilings of outhouses. He trims the gristle from the marrow of what you used to be, and then tells you to put a lid on it. Keeping the bulge and the glitter alive, manila-envelope skin and telegrams from outer space, knowing that the end of man is to know, or just passing the afternoon going north-east out of the city. People pray for their own demise at certain times of the year, when the weather won’t stop playing games with their god-fearing spirits, and that great big eye slowing them down from upstairs somewhere. Tilling the backrooms for spare gold coins, we sift through what’s left and bag the rest. Love’s tablecloth stays stained with who you are in my dreams, nothing too dramatic, not like weaving in traffic, not like tossing peanuts in a panhandler’s palm. More like getting in on the joke, swanky and loose in the tongue, sporting a boiled shirt, cussing high and low and not upset at all. And the commissaries are streaking down the line, holding off colds, playing spoons with a few shirtless dweebs, and patches of chokeberry and meadowsweets and photinia rub the hillsides with splotchy dashed color while you run errands and play fetch with ballots and cure your own shyness with watery ebullient cheers like hey-ho-let’s-go stuff. Sure. Run a hay-wagon through it and take off all your clothes. Go pantomiming the great potato, tousled hair crinkled and matted down with perspiration over his forehead, the pudgy face, cagey, the trenches in his eyes, the seven-fifty seersucker that’s long in the pants with the cuffs crumpling down over high black shoes, the tissue-papered tie, imbibing orange soda with two straws at once. But assuming the nicest of things about all involved you can lead a cemetery tour group to flat-out indecent or just drowned decisions, and you with your taffy hair, you’ve got to lead a duck, even with famished cheeks and an unfinished smile treading water on your swimming-pool face. So, please do not rest in peace or chaos, like when you’re reaping profound things from a private conversation, and then somebody else walks in the room and it’s like everything is dead and you can’t talk anymore. Wonder comes in bunches and blooms like crepe myrtle. You leave it at smokestacks. You leave it at love-vine clambering up out of the weeds, to those of the wool-hat and cockle-burr variety casting their lot with the jumping-jack-flashers. You leave it at b-b-b-b-as-tuds with spit flying and screechy tires rubbering the dirt shoulder off the high shining bright slab. A gun holstered like a tumor under an arm. Tamarisk and hobo décor strangling the gaps between here and way way way way over there. Nothing more to keep you brightly lit. Make sure you count the telephones poles as they spool by fishing for compliments, stringing along the race of the wires, as your eyes dance bumpy and troubled, a shade pulled down over your features by an unknown hand that no matter what you’ll never get to know, not the way you could’ve, once, long ago, before the cold-glove grip of the past caught up and strangled the guts from you. As you were. Taps plays. Quiet prevails. Your heart breaks over and over again. Blaming the deviant nature of one on the whole’s nurturing. And you run like a cat escaped from a sack, and you part ways with mahogany wainscoting and the massive stonework of the cellarage, and you crowbar your way back into the wreck of your past. Don’t answer the phone for a stretch. Guess what’s for dessert. Leave your name and number on a velvet jacket’s cuff. Let’s shake the dust off our inner-selves and gussy up the fraternities of now for mud-shack parties that just might never end. Hopelessly redeemed. You get weary making plans. Divorced from the higher things in life, handling it all too well, after the well’s dry and the moon’s gone, and we’re waking up in different beds. The coffee’s taking too long to work, and nothing’s resolving on its own. Sundown’s got its own mess to clean up, or what’ll do until the mess arrives, but then we’ve still got the awful responsibility of time, on our side and against us too, with the highway lowing off scrubbed and matted, sounding out distance into more distance.  
            And in the slow muscle of the evening foaming with a greasy, slush-like moan there would be the cries of strays and the hee-haw squawk of seagulls, and near the church-bell melody of stoops cluttered with posy and feline purrs and mechanical trinkets that hum and bump and rattle, and the swinging of doors; and now, because you’ve kidded the hotel chippies long enough, you take the charm of hand-holding clowns, you set the saucepan away for good, you toss aside filmy gowns and the punched-through spackle of deteriorating drywall. A purpling mass of sky descends, or seems to, as everything is close and all around. The marsh sings, half repulsed by the flash of car headlights, half unaware of even itself. People drive on and over things--the thin, crackly crust of the present--with vowels that clack like spoons.
             He was a flypaper-souled guy, and his ambitions lent towards card tricks and needle beer. Nothing made sense about him. He’s the kind of guy who’d instantly make comradely raillery turn to dour subjectivity. Skin rough and worn on his tooled and tan face, fresh bloody crust in nick-cuts from shaving peppered here and there on the sag of his cheeks, gumball-blue eyes always squinting, peering circumspectly at whatever happened to be passing their way. A huff and a spleenish groan. A self-serving public servant. Nothing but poly-ticks.
             The backyards with their patchwork fences of chicken wire, mesh hexagons rusty and sagging in places, the grass sopped with rain, muddy puddles pocking humps and clumped weed-flowers, and their chimneys so lonely, cobbley, smoking above tin or sheet-metal roofs where the rain patters and thumps and makes those below sink into a somnolence, an almost-trance that keeps the yawns coming and the coffee brewing all day, and then there’s time for to listen to the train whistles as those hunkering gray beasts smoke and screech into the station to remind all that life is motion, even when it’s being still, even on a late rainy afternoon while the moths are still toying with the idea of playing hover over the flicker of yellow bulb light, even when this here train is grumbling and grinding to a halt, the people inside just shadows, just figurines, just chattel awaiting another destination in an endless line of destinations, none of which will, as they never should be, the end. A rumble stirs through the dining car, dishes and wine glasses awkwardly cavorting on tremored tops of tables. Windows frame rectangles of the forlorn landscape. A water tower leans gawky over rows of corn. Klee-klee-klee whines from a tidings of American Kestrels. Squares of fallow farmland checker the flat stark terrain, the bland similarity of monotonous pastures, a place where nothing can hide, where nothing can be obscure, and the sun sets fire, and the sky’s so big it’s like it just wraps around everything and makes you dizzy and lost in it. The porches are warped and creaky and covered with wind-blown dirt. A man chewing on a pipe pauses for a moment, sets down his newspaper, sits up in his rocker, and stares at the ruddy and scaly flesh of the world, his drifting mind now settling on something, something that curtains his sight’s movie screen, something that bread-and-roses his instincts, and he might even chance to catch wind of dogwood and redbud, or part ways with dreaming Chickamaugas and Chattanoogas in an attempt at expiation, short-lived as it may be, for the horded company of his past. The skyline trembles.

             In a wild, electric way her hair, cut off at that crazy length, very black and choppy, by itself could make you fall in love with her at a glance. Something disinterested strolled around in her eyes, which were glassy and moon-like, and which would sparkle at you but only if it was necessary. Being close to her was an occupational hazard, though one you’d risk every time, as the summer dwindled and the lawns faded to a burnt sienna and cow smell crept in to chase away the cedar and pine. There were certain times when that graceful turn of her hips, her luxuriant and languorous stride, the way she stood on tiptoe to spoon sugar into the coffee or playfully shadowboxed with your palms, were enough to make you stick around. So, then you step off the train and it’s cold, a biting cold that pinches and slaps at your face. You weren’t made for weather like this. The gravel scrunches like dry Quaker Oats as you step away from the platform. The houses clap and board up your dreams. A shiver warms beneath the pavement, and you carry your bags to the terminal bar where you’ll sit and smoke cigarette after cigarette and drink beer after beer until they oh-so-politely ask you to leave with the utmost brevity and class, and you’ll go, quietly, without causing a ruckus, lugging along ghosts in gray suits with plastic daffodils sleeping in their lapels, dragging your feet, on your way home.
            The road sweeps, tilted and crumbling, and mulls in a wash of moonlight. Rabbits and prairie dogs mingle and dart and artfully dodge drool-hungry wolves out in the chaparral’s dark. Rounding bends is a serious high-risk situation, but it’s got to be done, without the aid of streetlights, so you do it, matching wits with the Doghobble and Barberries and Corkwood and Hollyleaf Buckthorn and Smoketree invading your mind’s garden. For a minute there, as the horizon marbles and the guardrail corkscrews and culverts clunk underneath making your head rattle like a clogged Hoover, you start to think you’re drowning, but then you realize it’s just the hogwash of terrible gutless remorse suffocating and botching up your reason from clear-headed to sappy wilted-lettuce numb. There’s a sneeze’s moment where you know just what needs doing and just how it will be done. You walk along the side, mud clinging to your boots, scratched by thorns and wiry branches, socks brambled, eyes peeled for headlights, ears wary of engine sounds, treading along careful and hurried, carrying yourself like a carton of eggs, awe-struck, an iota of kindness still hell-or-highwatering down your swallows, slicing at the mean-stitched blimp of what it currently means for you at this moment to be alive.

            You’re the rattletrap scream slapped on the smudge-slick walls, like murals murked with a copper glaze, as the horizon’s brushed with a mirage of distant painted mountains, some flat-topped and rubbed raw, the clay and creosote terrain like a valley on mars, bent crosses of ancient telephone-pole shadows on it and the scrub bush patchy in places on the streaks of flatland punctuated by these tiny hillocks of grassy yellows and burnt red, faces in the rubble of a thousand jagged rocks jutting out like rusty scars, and above giant stationary swaths of cloud hanging like discarded moth-eaten sheets, lonely semis plugging along on invisible roads in the midst of nothing, and the telephone wires racing along, and the sudden blur of a passing train in the shadow of yours, and then that slight slam and whisk and swoosh of it as you charge through the desert on a track in the middle of nothing.
            Through the dry-raindrop stained glass the squatting mounds of tree-laden hills roll, and the low-lying wiry stems of future tumbleweeds flail in the hunch of a light breeze. Mustard blurs and blowsy greens scuffle for breath in an instant’s spotty sea of blue-green. The Colorado river, lazy and sparkling, meanders away through the ghosts of boxcars and rocky debris. Windswept gullies striped from blood-red to roseate. The hitched pull of a turn. The gentle rocking gone to a thrust and yawing rumble of a switchback, and the tracks screech and whine as the whistle howls all’s well through a rain-splashed night.      
             A thrashing well past midnight as the bunk slips and lunges, as you’re bumped and shook out of dreams to a coffin-low ceiling and gurney-like straps hemming you in. Spun and dazedly muddied into fits of half-turns and pillow-squashed horror, you balance your sanity on a burnt-out match tip. A constant turn that beckons your body close to the plastic cabin partition, and then a sweeping roar buried deep within the confines of night’s massive black curls. A crunched tilt, weary and dolorous, squints on borrowed sightlines, and you are sweaty and lost in a whirl’s list and bob. Staring tiredly into a blankness that borrows stars from your eyes and makes everything spin, you wind and unwind at once that spool of your life’s thread, and somewhere behind the thick pulled curtains the moon’s out there harvesting the sky’s leftovers, and you wish for rest and roll over, head still hung with bluebells and cedars and the golden sparkles of aspen leaves on the river.    
            Rushing through forests on a dining car. Coffee cups jackhammering their saucers, silverware jostled from napkin to tablecloth, the puttering whine of it all: that high-pitched howling train whistle, the tracks’ metallic silver screech and bumpy plaints, and the discordant smattering of about two dozen getting-to-know-you conversations. A tacky glint of a seriousness that welds smiles into place, and you’re off and on to a lush sprint through treetops and gaping boulders in the hillside: a verdurous landscape littered with crackled red-yellow-orange leaves and the thick webs of a thousand cypress and cedar branches huddled and spread in massive bunches all the way up and down impossible-to-believe valleys and river-cut gorges. Moods waning gibbous in a felled tree’s former shade, and you’re chalking it all up to misery’s biding time in the duality of perspective’s constant flash and flurry, passing, always passing, always just ahead and a tad behind. Wider strains of being wise smile backwards while a protective coat of idiocy covers what’s left of the surface. The snack bar’s open late. Somewhere kindly beyond any cocktail you’ve ever known lies the path of most likely resistance. You are under a table. Hot dogs are served with mayonnaise and avocado. A few passengers have been thrown out an emergency exit marked For Conductor’s Use Only. There are kites tangled in the ceiling lights. You have become rather obsolete.                       
            Vast farmland stretches skimming by, tracts of light trapped and warped in sloped distance pull me into some very serious contemplation over my life, where it’s going, and to whom I am going to attach it. My jokes on loan for the night to an upstart ribbon salesman, reappearing loyal and jumpy to the rest of the at-hand mourners. To just say things to fall out of love over and over, to just hold rust-steady for making a jerky start at wildness. Hankering on to other Wyomings, I’m sold long, insufficiently interested in what others have got to say. Appended and lunky, very lorded over and sometimes serious. A honked horn of guilt stabbed blind in a rather ornery hurry that, let’s say, is making do. Let’s just say.    
            Last time around everything was sloped. Vanishing acted its part. The men were less wise than they should’ve been. The yard sales lost their feathers. If the thread of steamed passiveness let on anything but the parts it never played, if the yearn of doubt overstayed its wellness, then a shallower cup might follow what’s left of now’s substance. Around this time or next I’ll be shoveling loose gravel from my smile onto somebody else’s road.
            Cramped quarters, narrow halls, stooped shoulders and a sailor’s mouth, fingerprint smudges on the window. Stirred and settled. The lights flicker. Nobody’s comfortable. A staticky voice crackles over the ceiling speakers: “Is it afar? Bought slowly. In chance per the leaving rate. You had us. It was wrapped in clover and bacon. There’s a cuss word I can’t guess. It’s putting up with. It’s jotting up too. We don’t dump coffee all over anything, except ourselves. Stronger still. Oil slicks what remains. Try to pass the rolls. We’ve got all the jelly in the world at our disposal. Bumped and brambled to stink alone. It is not beautiful.”

Throwing Birds And Killing Stones

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            Marcia Brady left on Halloween. It was a rare day, brisk and scratchy, and the moon was shining like a brand new Bentley.            
            There was a taper in Why’s stride. Feeling convenient. Feeling barely lucky like unsold aluminum siding. Why was worried about being outdone. Why said, “I will not be outdone.” It made Why feel good to say it out loud like that.
            Why was happy once, too, you know?
            Marcia Brady ran most of the show for us. Sure, she got hit in the schnozer with a football, and the ruffians played well with her a-lot’s like. But you’ve got to spell credit out for her, and then give her a take. You just had to be there. You just did.
            It was hard times all around.
            Why had no Ought-To to follow around. There were many variables in Why’s constitution. As for Why’s discreetness? Why’s alibis? Well, Why had that figured at least. Marcia Brady was conveniently misconstruing all of Why’s chances, doling out losing lottery tickets to fortunetellers to be resold to plangent and ill-content bidders. Why began complaining: “Marcia. Marcia. Marcia.” That was all there was to do.
            Soon enough it was Halloween. Why had no cognizant reason for feeling ill at ease, but couldn’t shake it. As Why loped along on the Boulevard, sniffing tar and emu oil, the traffic sounded like a large number of razors being scratched along poster board. Why thought, ‘I can be like anything, but never actually the thing, really.’
            Then, not too quickly or anything, Why noticed between two rubber poles and a palm tree with a human face in the middle of its trunk, Marcia Brady stalking closer. She was wearing a purple nightgown stitched together with chambray and fake gorilla hair. Her feet were bare. Her nails? Unpolished and cracked. Why didn’t like the looks of things.         
            Why looked Marcia Brady up and down, and down and up. And then spit out, “Talk at me.”
            “This is what palm trees say, not loafers like you. Not rubber poles. And for damn sure, not Marcia Brady!”
            “The robots do their worst. Best!”
            The fight was on.
            “Good move. A dicey way to behave. Take a rest and stop rehearsing the movie of your life for a second. It’ll be over before you’re ever done with it anyhow. I am breathing. Listen. Listen. Hear that? No? Hell. It is not so moving to be taken seriously. It is charming enough. Nervous and strange. Ray Chandler wrote deranged erotica when he was drunk. There are only a few moves left before my queen’s checkmated. I am not moved by any of it. And there is no way I’m ever getting my deposit back on this place. Got it? There.”
            “You know me; I lose track of time when I’m on the drink. And last week I fell in love with a girl who beat me at arm wrestling. I’m always looking for excuses to feel bad. It’s just my way. You know me.”
            “But hear it here first. A family that runs up a hill together in the wind is a pretty great family, in my opinion.”
            “Nobody floats anymore, on mattresses or whatever. I get mad sometimes, too, you know? Sunday shoes are out of style. Dancing is still restricted to certain classes. We make the least of it, here. I am not broken yet, at least. Right now. Start it. Be the opposite of wrong or right.”
            “Who’s talking? And to whom?”
            “Don’t listen. I’m not going everywhere.”
            “We are who we run into.”
            The season smelled of dank horse and cheap perfume. A worried look spanned the sky’s countenance. Nobody was starting their sentences with the letter V, as this became bad luck. But, after being told so often of how the Z Tax going into effect would help stimulate the alphabet’s economy, it turns out no tax money was ever actually collected on the letter Z; people just stopped using it. Shirt collars were sliced at or chopped off completely. A man in a burgundy suit shooed away all comers. Where was the reason, and No was the question.
            Soon, but not very soon, Marcia Brady came to understand that Why was merely a look, an askance glance gone to other eyes. And Marcia Brady could ignore it, or pretend to-- which was just as good in any case-- by hitting the Stand By button on her belt’s Outside Communication System control panel. Nobody had to explain this to her. The belt didn’t exist. Marcia Brady knew this immediately, if not innately, upon snubbing Opportunity’s knock of, “I’ll be right there, honey.” Or, “Just a moment, dear.” It didn’t matter. Why had fled the scene, accidentally as it were, and Marcia Brady no longer had to concern herself with such things. Belt or no belt. It was all not a wash. Not at all.
            Marcia Brady walked on, thinking, ‘I am not wholly holy, nor holistic that much. No. Not much at all.’
Part 2, A Rebuttal  

“It is not up to me to be this way or that way or any of the ways you’d most dislike being at the current station’s currency of bliss and not heavenly you’d say if you would say it and not just lie there pissing in the wine again like a butchered block of ice and the real reason for staying put is not so hard to tell even if it were I’d think and I’d think and I’d think it but not like a castoff or an underestimation of cussing everybody out one final time and for all of any everything’s for good but you know it’s not up to me so just lay off the sauce for a moment here and listen okay you can do that and I’m not telling you anything that matters so what’ve I got to do with it anyway huh buddy it is not fright in the power lines it is sure enough rank and spoiled so just go ahead and fall asleep in the bathtub because nobody cares right now so,”

Part 3, All These Days Forever And Always
Dear Marcia Brady,
I went to our old Chinatown spot last night. The chow mein wasn’t the same without you around to share it with. There were figurines in the window: old things, crazy things, bored things, lost things with no purpose. The floor, it just wouldn’t shine, no matter how hard I tried to get it to, just by looking. Last night, the cold wasn’t so bad. The sidewalks got carried away with hope, and I was limping on them, just a bit, almost just like I used to by your side. But that was last night. And this, now, is not, and never will be, ever.

Dear, dear.
Oh, dear.
Marcia Brady is no longer here.
Put her heart in the heavens; your ear to the earth; and a wish on the bed for someone like you to keep.             
Part 4, And All Of That Jiving Around

Ok. So, listen to this: “I bought so many peaches in my dreams last night. Wood crates full of them. It isn’t often that you get sprayed with your neighbor’s water hose while you are carrying a crateful of peaches. But it happened in my dream last night. Go figure, huh? What a real jerk. He didn’t even apologize for it. He blamed me for ducking into his stream. I set the crate of peaches down on my mother’s kitchen counter. She said, ‘What am I going to do with all those peaches? They won’t last.’”      

There was not a were-not in there to even have.
The end of possibility was upon us.
“Ah, nuts.” Said the portly sandwich artist.

Pretend that this helps. Talking. Not talking. Whatever. Get the lowest estimate possible on denial. Don’t pretend to go for it. There are tulips growing wild in the dishwater, and my hair’s just tinsel and pink rubber bands. A nice place to visit, but to stay, away, it is just getting’s away at its most solemn and permanent. Miss the Lamborghini tractor smiles. Caught up in the ache of a lost laugh tossed to the rabbits and the peas and the skeletons too. Make believe it was one of those luxury suites, you know. With a baby grand in the room, and a wet bar and a hot tub and a fireplace and everything. And you know how lonely it gets when you mix too many martinis with a pool you can’t swim in, and there’s no room service between midnight and oblivion. If there were a there then, then we had time to be ourselves but none to be each other in. So, keep some lavender in your buttonhole and a moon key in your pocket. You know, I too wish I knew some well-dressed folks who were in my neck of the woods. And you. Hell, you could do that standing on your butt. And me? I can’t ever get even, or odd. Grieving comes in bunches. Loss mops up in waves. So shout, “Ole!” Because you already know that heaven is other people. We’re just not used to all this “it” yet.

Part 5, Lavender Skies

Don’t worry. I only think of you every night, and when I wake up, all afternoon, and in the evening too.
But no, I’m not sad at all, not even a little blue.
Not so much that you’d notice.
I’m not in mourning. I’m in afternoon. I’m in evening. I’m downright crepuscular.
Spilling champagne off the back of a train
while the lemonade waits in our suite.
And you making your sweet little sound.
go ahead,
and whisper the touch of your name
to me.
In the hem of eleven’s hitched stride,
in the glitter of stilettos dangling from chandeliers, 
in the only way goodbye knows.
I’ll find you.
In the gooey elegance of underwater windows,
in the seaweed smile of the ocean’s mood music,
in the chatter of crows and the mutter of burglars footsteps,
forever foraging,
for never staying.
The lilt and hush of your broken-light-bulb voice,
the soft sway and crinkle of your all-knees dancing,
the lush, slow swimming of your licorice-drop eyes. 
The moon’s gone fishing.
The water boys have grown up for good.
And the well is all out of pennies.
I trace the place on the pillow
that once held your head's shape.