Sunday, March 16, 2014

testing testing

I’m a nibbler and a sipper. I am a tester of water. Yes. And I will ask myself also, “What if there is no water? And what is water? How do I know if it exists, or if I exist? For what reason or reasons am I testing it, and for whom? And what results would qualify as passing for this test?” I get lost far too easily in such matters. I cannot become staunch now about being a passenger here. “A diamond for your thoughts,” they say. I say, “Loosely ground,” to it. I won’t make myself special if it can be helped. Assuaged and lip-read, I grouse without a sound. If the water’s warm I will jump. And be settled to it.

A discovery: “trisp” is not a word. Let the letters be whatever color they want. Brash is the lunge I get after the spectacle of acting my part is done with. Okay. Hurry up with a tad more on the revolutions of the celestial spheres: Copernicus. His sunniest side didn’t work out in the always heliocentric ego of what’d last and go on. “Proper,” you say? Well. I’d give a look-see to it. The ease that comes without opulence: an inebriated pride perhaps, a wheelbarrow’s fortifying grace. I know not the aluminum’s crash, yet. We here— including myself, of course— are not neighbors. Shed. Sweep. Level the surface. Joists turning under the whole rig’s weight. More things to worry about. “Trisp,” I say to it. “Bogus.”

“Treat me for ringworm once in a while.” That’s the shipbuilder in me talking. He continues, “Ahem. Yes. That about does it. Goodnight nurse.” I guess it’s about time for some carpe dieming. I’ve been putting it off for so long. “Get to it then.” That’s me growling back at the shipbuilder. Neither one of us is becoming very comfortable with the other. And now some joker’s turning off the hot water on us.

The water stays, tested or not. I prowl over it lightly with bated breath and a few jab steps. Who would I be to glide safely through it? If I must administer these tests, these showboating things with crabby mysteries to unveil, who will be there to see the results? I am not the one who functions well under the cool eyes of disbelief. I almost could get myself to swear to that. I won’t though. I have to believe that all of this is necessary. I have to believe that I am, if nothing else, this “me” who shudders at most vain attempts at placing whatever it is that resides in these tests to the test. What test would I use to get results like the ones I never am able to comprehend, nonetheless get? Rich am I with empty gestures. I skim my lithe hands over the choppy wave crests of what little I know, and I pretend to know things that I wouldn’t give a glass of spinach milk for the knowing of. Shallow or deep, I am at least proper in my estimates at what I can claim to be constraining myself in with these acts of motionless awe. I am a too, also.

A man arrived just the other week. It was not another incompetent one (man or week), but a trifling stipend of guff and grist for me to sift through and over. And so I thought, ‘Let me just see here.’ The man was a bright-tie guy, and he was balding and wore wire-rimmed spectacles and had on a corduroy jacket with patches on the elbows, and his presence made me think of a small house cat for some reason. “I do not have time for silliness. We all need results.” This was his way of introducing himself. I would’ve shook his hand and said, “Howdy. Put ‘er there,” if it had seemed likely to be reciprocated in this by some fashion of his, but his perturbed scowl came to a hilt, and it came to pass that he was solely perturbed with my diddling and trawling nature, and his, “Let’s slice to the core of all this frank-and-beans,” was a necessary course of events.

I sorry-ed my way through amateur-hour courses in flamboyance over a topic which concerned me about as much as if I’d been slipped a note reading: “I still think of you as a babe. Hotter than coals as ever.” The man was ho-humming the whole affair, and I carefully washed his thoughts in vinegar as we walked and tiptoed towards what one of us believed to be water. Soon he was aghast at things I hadn’t mentioned. “Where are there squeaks like these?” He asked. I told him, “I know not squeaks, madam.” A certain puckering came to his visage. I quit our journey and stowed my luck away in a broken radio. “I want rascals, not childish egos to deflate. Are either of us kidding the other?” That’s the last thing he allowed me to hear.

There will be dump trucks and wagons here at seven in the morning. I will be listening to the sound that planes make as they perform flybys overhead. I do not preach sympathy or little smacks of deliverance. I test the water. That is all. I am doing nothing but something, and I will continue whether anything here really exists. Snip go the gardening shears. I can notice them from where I belong. Dip a toe in? I distrust such obvious designs. If I were somebody ordinary I might flay the expense from the trust I never had a chance to retain. I am that man who was here the other week. He is not here now. I am. Of these peculiar things I can be sure. Lips on a face. A wisp of hair curling from a neck. Bright waters run still deeper with it, more than can be supposed or tested. Water is just a guess. I was not made for it. Laugh so I might not starve before the next test follows from the last, and all over again, and, of course, never. Never is my final at-all. Test it out yourself. See what you think. If you really are there and not here, or are you and I not the same? The point of all the testing is that it doesn’t matter. The water’s not anyone’s to test. One is not capable of the other. And the days will trickle by now, and you will not know for whom you test and on whom or what, if the water’s still there in the morning. Yes?


Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Certain Peculiar Certainty

Dearest Olive,

This patter I’ve caught myself in needs a way out. Charlie Chaplin knew it. It’s in the drop of poison you never get. He threaded it all night long through the slaughterhouse of his chagrin. Perhaps I’ll relate to you what happened last night. Apparently I believe that you will care.  

I wasn’t in the mood for getting-to-know-you chitchat. Inside the bar it was too crowded to sit, so I went outside and tried to mingle with the smokers. As recently as being a bit sloshed would allow, conversation wasn’t making itself available, and I knew it, as I was dribbling on about having a nap like it was early on in the evening in Spain or something. Who the hell knows why I say all things that I say? It’s just a tight place to be situated in. I noticed a little girl holding the string of a few balloons in a doorway. The doorway was in a little alley, one that reminded me of all those brick alleys in Lowell, or then again maybe it was just a rope to dangle a few bad memories from until their necks all snapped. I pulled a smoke from my vest pocket and handed it to a beautiful lady. I lit it for her. She smiled and told me to go to hell. That made me feel more than just a tad delighted; it was the best news I’d heard all day. I lit one for myself and stood there like a jerk, coolly inhaling and exhaling— something I’m quite accustom to looking dashing while doing. She was unimpressed. I admired her taste. “You’ve really got something going there, lady. Stick with it. You’ll really go places.” She called me an asshole and told me to leave her alone. I obliged.

Soon after I was strolling down Columbus, alone, deliriously contented with myself, and in an odd way, morose. There were folks gathered in smoking scrums outside of bars all the way down the wide boulevard as it cut its diagonal path through town. I snaked my way through them and kept going along until I came to the edge of Washington Square Park. It was nice out. It’d been raining all day, and the streets were slick with it still, as the night had cleared up and kicked the storm east. A sickle moon was slicing away at a few ambushed stars, and the streetlights were making up stories about pedestrians and dogs. I wanted a place to sit, and so sauntered on over to a bench on the south side of the park. Miraculously it was dry. I sat there and watched the trees and St. Peter and Paul’s all lit up across the way. I spotted a rat scurrying around in the hedges. It noticed me noticing it, and quickly darted up a tree. A certain train of thought rumbled its way through me, and I decided that all I really wanted in life was somebody to goof off with— or maybe goof around with too. It felt grand to finally have some purpose in my life.     

Hello again. My dreams are more vivid now.

I am not so mean anymore. I lean into things, like my nights and backdoors. Reason stands proper by my side, even when I am not able to need it. The windows see right through me, and I get tuckered out around noon, shortly after waking from an unendurably deep sleep. The cats in my building’s lobby scratch at my door. I never let them in, even when their petulant purring turns me into a sobbing wreck. I want hotter coffee, damn it. I want golf balls to throw at pigeons. Just a few things. Not so much to ask for, really.

In hopes of not reaching you, this letter’s not made of declarations or snide mischief. If it were to place itself—all these things and some other stuff too— in the grubby mitts of some bail bondsman, if it were to shabbily go where naught but jewelers and pie sellers were meant to go, well, then I guess I’d throw a few more colons in for the sake of unbound ideas or the sorted well-meaning jousts of towel-wringers and horseshoe loaners. By gut instinct I renounce the pecuniary joy that is brought to most people on paydays. There’s a light on in the parlor. I must attend to it.

Formerly I woke to realize that a moth had died on my cheek.

It was just table-setting to be engaged in, that worry in the parlor, and the light showed me less of it. Swallowing gasps of gulped air, I livened up to switches, to on-off clicks, to darker stretches for my roaming to go about in, or through at least. I need others to blame, but only have myself.

The velvet settee is being delivered unto the lord. The music’s too soft, and I’ve grown too old to hear it. Been up and out of here, too, in the rash haste of my sort of ways. Tilling at dawn’s ploughed rows of rising, and the matchwork is mismatched with me. And, also, who knows? I mean things and then I don’t. Balance is not always such a stable thing. A picked-apart room. Astonishing reasons for behaving just the same as always. Or can you find it in me, maybe? (And if you have to ask what “it” is, well, that’s mostly your fault.) What could’ve happened without you is not what the striptease theater barkers are going on about. That? That’s something you are most likely just finding out.

Last night I threw my topcoat up a sycamore. It hung there in the gnarled, leafless branches like a ghost between scaring bouts. It was mesmerizing. I left it there to do as it would. I’m through with it now, whether I like it or not, and it will not be returning to my closet. Perhaps I am envious of it, dangling there in the wind and the rain, holding on through spasms and quirks in the nature of things. It should think, ‘I wonder when the leaves will come back?’ It doesn’t. Instead it relies on the notes of late winter to toy with its meandering wonder. And if I never shall return? Only you’d ask such a blundering question. So, I leave the answer to you as well. The finding out is the easy part. Besides, fanatical attachments aside, I’m not such a bad guy once you start to know me. My topcoat has set sail for uncharted regions of foliage. I don’t mind the irreconcilable trust all of this must somehow involve. What is there left to mind anyhow?

Also, before I forget to mention it, this lady, the other day, she called me a “dorn forker” while I was riding the subway. I was standing, holding the metal grab rail, and she comes up next to me and calls me this name. Then she walked away, opened the door between cars, and fled the scene. I detected a defect in her pitch, something I trust that you’re surely aware of— acutely even. When I slow down my thoughts everything comes out differently. This women was a token of the dismal traces people defend of what their too fearful to believe is their former self. I hung on for the sake of holding on, as is my wont. Being interrupted is all that happens now. You can see that, can’t you?

I stand at my window and dream, outwardly, in your general direction. A passive shrug, and then I’m done. There are only hate letters left to compose, complacently as it were, in the catchall of any last silence I might break. I forget what your breath smells like.


Harold Hamgravy