The Enigma Machine
In front of the committee of indentured men, he took apart the Enigma machine, key by key, without regard for backward sequencing or scrambled encapsulations. One by one, each committee member rose to tell the most terrifying secret that haunted his life. Then, each one left. When finished, he lost the use of his lips, heard the muffled laughter of a woman at the end of a tunnel, his wife back home sitting in front of a cold dinner.
Past Tense Future
She was giving up bits of her life, cut into ribbons and twists he could easily digest, at times, tasting like black licorice. How she once lived at the fringe, the karma of bad lives, the sailor she accidentally suffocated in her grandmother‘s room, the anxious body squirming beneath her. He now imagined himself growing small, a child tossed into the ocean, his neglected cries, the last drops at the bottom of his shot glass.
He was considering what words could break the sound barrier between them, how to use wave propulsion as an aerial warship, cannon, tank, or scout. But her mind, she said, was focused on the bottom line. Love for her was a diversion, but the invention of The Swift Pigeon Good Bye was advanced technology, worth more than a thousand private planes, the parts that no one could order through postal.
“Temporary Vision, Permanent Alteration”; “While Wondering, Occurrences Translate to Answers”
Over Green Light
Green light is fishing this gutty beldam alive,
little power from the seat of my gerontoxicosis—
I can’t, however, see my way to Dixieland,
fairy tale, or quilting. Aghast— green light!
Jitters are half my day, not rustiness,
and I want it hot in a cup.
How frank are my legs and steps,
hingey, fraught as ballast bags dripping sand,
while the balloon takes its lady to the blazes,
upward, yes me, and not you;
my balloon gasconades, big.
And baby? Sweetie? You should know
that pirates felt me up crusades ago,
and there is no supple smasher here, sewing
over green tea and tunafish, my green light,
and a reheated tagliatelle salad plate.
Listen, you’re still in venter, and crushing
is for kids. I like the green light, the little
plates, Presley, and yes, all the sugar-talk,
kind and still fooling as a vapor,
but you’re a green I don’t use much,
and you should know to go back
into the lips of girlfriends and girls.
A State of Exile
My loyalties were always divided, but I finally left the service of the sultanate once I discovered that the merest drop of water bent my bronze sword. Soon thereafter I became a fisherman and singer. My songs captured the attention of villagers, but the priesthood violently disputed my insistence that the river was a burning mirror hovering above a fragile mosaic of wasps, cicadas and birds. Man mistook most objects. Man mistook objects for his dominion. Perhaps it was a matter of political retaliation—grasping hatred—that drove them to finally condemn me. An old rival of mine quickly secured a decree that sought to deprive me of my dignity, but I found wings and a new territory among the dancing branches and rocks of the jungle. The skin will obey the calling of a new occupation if want becomes a necessity and a necessity becomes a natural law. Nature by its very name is law. Over time, my whereabouts dissolved entirely into the congregation of a secret society where the promotion of vices and schisms are viewed as necessary incursions. After seven years of desert sojourns and hard learning, I left them in the guise of a blind scholar to pursue the universe anew. Now I lie atop the observatory I built and study the lunar machinery with opium, cinnamon and clove blazing next to the golden breviary I use as a cushion. I am disassembled here on this summit—almost incorporeal. My bronze sword, which I have kept with me for all of these years, has become a strip of green surrounded by fields of blue on the orb that floats below me. An interminable black band encases even the largest of kingdoms from this view. No one can be excluded. Nobody, I mean.
A Seasoned Leader
Main Street roils with humidity as the hayseed potentate leans against the crepe papered podium on the makeshift stage. She swipes away a salty strand of hair. She tugs at the floral dress plastered to her back. She props up the thick spectacles sliding down her nostrils. She irons the shallow furrows out of her speech with wet palms. She surveys the townsfolk who, in the blurring heat, become a giant disc blade ready to run under the hazy length of the horizon. Yes, their heads are circular bits of notched steel, sharp complaints against the moist surface which must yield miracles. Miracles are her specialty. Fecundity is her message. She knows they need her leadership. She knows they need her. She knows they need. She knows. She. Main Street roils with humidity as the hayseed potentate grips the sweating edges of the vibrant podium. It is the planting season and every drop will be diverted into the fields that enclose the town. She will ripen the crops nicely. She will feed them well into next winter. Yes, she will do very well.
The Tragic Reader
This is the usual story about unrequited love, which means that it was the usual story about a once great hope. Thus, it must become the usual story that most readers can believe and feel and subsequently recommend to their families and friends with enthusiastic analyses and appeals. Consequently, it must be the usual story worthy of an award or at least an honorable mention at the end of the year. It should, in short, become a winner because of its pervasive familiarity and apparent accuracy. It should be positively ceremonial. However, it could be a story about something else. It could be a story that forces you to imagine life outside of yourself. It could be a story that even forces you beyond the obscurest regions of your neatly constructed universe. In fact, it should be a story so strange as to incite bewilderment and fear. It should be so bewildering and fearful that you are forced to amend a sense of love you thought you knew so well. But, tragic reader, it cannot be written as long as you expect it here. Your laws are clear.
NEW YORK AT NIGHT WITH ALL THIS CLUTTER AND PAPER, I WISH I WAS
Looking out my window and
all I can see
was the hypothetical view
We’re all caught inside of those to which we are attracted.
Beards and tight fitting denim shorts, cutoffs, actually
an ironic and contemporary reference
I’d like to exercise my right to walk out
into the blood-violet ocean
and just keep going
until everything went under.
Of course, the right to breathe exists independently
of thriving or pandas. And it’s sad when you get a haircut.
Everyone you know or don’t know saying did you get a haircut?
When, obviously, you’ve gotten a haircut.
All you can say is yes I got a haircut.
Then you stand there thinking about something sharp.
Either that or you cry a magnificent blathering corpse
from your nose and begin mumbling
about the cats who troll the bookstore looking for raw meats
No more haircuts. I’ll shave it off and scream
in the middle of the restaurant at the bottom of the water
fall below the street among clouds, pavement
and angels who throw down cash
for bong rips and cupcakes.
This is ninety degrees and does not qualify
My friend Carl is about to attest that I’m not crazy. He’s hunched over the pool table, reading my affidavit.
Carl and my brother were great friends and after my brother’s funeral last month we sort of started hanging out. I don’t think he’d challenge my characterization.
The thing he’s about to sign takes seven pages of legalese (diarrhea of the mouth, the lawyer called it, after I paid) to say I have pinpointed the nodule in my brain responsible for my stutter. It further makes clear that since no one else is brave enough, I am going to get rid of it.
For 37 years the nodule I’ve taken to calling Garibaldi has rendered me a near mute, someone unable to just yesterday ask a pimply, nametagged kid the whereabouts of the Worcestershire sauce.
Once Carl signs the affidavit, he will hold my head still while I inject a high-powered needle at very rapid speed through my skull, decimating Garibaldi.
Then I will call my wife and tell her I won’t need any more pep talks and she can come back to live with me.
It is not yet time. Sam stares himself down in the dead reflection of the television, waiting to disappear. He is meeting his brother, Michael, for dinner. He wants to leave immediately, but thinks, It is not yet time. Sam looks at his feet, his face in the blank screen, sees himself staring at himself, and wonders what he’s thinking. When he makes eye contact with himself, it feels like an enormous suction cup has been placed over his face, gently tugging his eyeballs from his sockets as he breathes. Sam looks at his legs; his ankles and skins. He thinks they appear abnormally large and – instantly – he thinks they feel that way.
Sam watches the clock. It will not move. He makes the conscientious decision to leave earlier than necessary to meet Michael for dinner. He thinks, Making conscientious decisions is a character attribute of an industrious person. He feels encouraged by this observation and becomes temporarily confident in his ability to function in society. He leaves a note on the kitchen table for Laura, telling her she can eat dinner without him. He thinks, She will be angry if I don’t leave a note. He wonders if she will be angry if he does not end with, “Love, Sam.” He considers the weight of the word love. He senses a poundage amassing across his shoulders. He feels his vertebra compress and becomes momentarily disoriented. Sam writes, “L-u-v,” before quickly scrawling his name, then moves the note from the kitchen table to the counter beside the sink. He tries to picture Laura. He can’t. Instantly, he has the mental image of an exotic woman smoking a cigarette, living a progressive lifestyle in an artistic community. He fantasizes for several minutes about this woman, picturing what life would be like if he were in a relationship with her. He finds an empty cup in the sink and sets it on top of the note. He stares at the cup. It is empty. For a moment, Sam feels a natural kinship with this empty thing; the dry hollowness of it. He thinks he does not like the look of the note on the counter and puts it back on the kitchen table. He closes his eyes as he does this.
Sam’s stomach cramps as he drives. He thinks it was foolish to leave so early and wonders why he does the things he does. He pictures himself at a table in a restaurant chewing ices cubes alone, feeling embarrassed. He decides to go to a coffee shop instead. He thinks, To kill some time, then thinks, Killing time is gratifying. He parks his car and walks inside. When he enters through the front door, he stops, and wonders why he is where he is. He cannot remember. There are people sitting quietly at tables with laptop computers and textbooks. Coffee people. Sam is under the impression that these people are concentrating intensely on things that will bring great dimension to their lives. Sam stands motionless in the entrance. He feels one-dimensional and wonders what to do. For a second, he thinks he might pass out, then wraps his arms around himself and shivers while trying to avoid eye contact with the coffee people. Sam thinks their faces are grave with self-stimulant. He thinks the problem with coffee people is that they’re idiots; that they’re all recovering alcoholics still in need of a place to be at night with other people, drinking something. Sam leaves and walks out to his car, feeling momentarily lost. He looks at the sky. The sun is still out. Sam thinks it is abnormally light outside. The days are getting longer. Time itself is elongating. He rubs his eyes into focus. There are clouds. The ambient hue of an impending dusk. Sam closes his eyes and sees a yellow moon. He wonders what the planet looks like from outerspace. He pictures himself alone on the surface of the moon. No one is around for a hundred-thousand miles. His breath condenses and hangs in the lunar air before drifting away. He looks at his feet. His ankles and shins feel weightless. When he opens his eyes, he feels okay.
The car starts perfectly. He exhales deeply as he listens to the ignition. Sam is happy that something in his life works the way he wants. He rests his fingers on the steering wheel. The pistons vibrate below the hood. He can feel the mechanical rhythm in his fingertips and feels strong. He pictures the motor’s entrails combusting with perfunctory precision. He thinks, I could drive across the entire continent of North America right now, if I wanted.
Sam is the only person in the parking lot. His sits behind the wheel, holding his stomach with both hands. A white pigeon sits atop of a fence surrounding the parking lot. A black pigeon walks up to the white pigeon. The white pigeon rises and walks away hurriedly down the fence. The black pigeon follows – chases – in a sort of avian-sexual advance. The white pigeon looks alarmed. Sam feels alarmed. He wonders why the white pigeon won’t just fly away. Sam wishes he could fly. He would spread his wings and fly. He thinks, Across North America. The pigeons stop then turn around and walk back in the direction they originally came from. Sam imagines the white pigeon is a female pigeon. He pictures her pregnant with a belly of eggs, laying each carefully in a nest on a fencepost. Sam honks his horn, trying to make the pigeons fly away. They do not move. They stare at Sam’s car, looking confused. The white pigeon tilts her head and stares at Sam. Blinks. Sam thinks the pigeon is about to say its name. He feels paranoid and looks away. A minute passes. Sam reverses his car, then realizes his door is ajar. He stops the car in the middle of the parking lot. He opens then closes his door three times, slamming it each time. It won’t shut. Sam looks around for someone to complain to. He wishes Laura was with him right now so he could complain to her. Blame her. He thinks, Maybe I blame her too much for things she has no power over. Sam slams his door again. He is gradually becoming more and more agitated. The door closes. Sam pulls away.
At the restaurant, Sam feels stupid when he asks to be seated. The hostess looks at Sam and smiles. She tells him there is a thirty-minute wait. Sam gets mad then disoriented. He smells perfumes and fish. He is beginning to starve to death. His musculature is dissolving and his pulse has begun to wane. He considers going into the restaurant bar area. He will sit there all night, drinking. He will not eat anything. He will forget about meeting Michael. Michael will come to the restaurant and will not be able to find him. He will call Sam’s cell phone ten times before leaving the restaurant. Sam will not answer one call. Michael will leave three messages, each one gaining in anger and volume. Sam will listen to the messages in the bar and order another drink. He will drink his drink and order another drink. He will sit in the bar all night, alone, watching white-tuxedoed strangers dine, leisurely sipping Bollinger RD between mouthfuls of Atlantic salmon. Sam will look around the restaurant with a neutral facial expression. Families. Friends. People on first dates. Married people. Happy people. Sad people. A golf highlight show will play on the television above the bar. Someone will place a ball on a tee. Someone will lose their ball in the ocean. Someone will smoke a cigarette beside Sam and Sam will fantasize about exotic women smoking cigarettes and living progressive lifestyles. Phil Collins will sing a song. Bruce Springsteen will sing a song. Happy people will listen and feel happier. Sad people will listen and feel sadder. Someone will hit a hole in one. No one else will.
Sam realizes he is still standing at the hostess’ stand and feels awkward. He thinks he has the opportunity to say something normal if he reacts quickly but he is unable to speak. Slowly, he turns and leaves the restaurant, then sits down on a bench outside, feeling empty in the stomach. He wishes he had a cigarette. He closes his eyes. He remembers how he and Laura used to smoke all of the time. She would buy packs of cigarettes and share them.
Sam checks his watch. It’s an old watch that his father gave him the Christmas Eve Cynthia drank too much eggnog and fell out of her chair. It has a bible verse engraved on the underside. Sam didn’t know the verse or what it meant. He remembers not wanting to know. His father told him anyways. Something about a coin an old woman had lost. The woman had ten coins and was happy. Then she only has nine coins and could not remember how she ended up with nine coins when she thought she had ten. She became sad. She turned her house upside-down, looking for this one coin until she found it. When she found it she was happy. Sam studies the face of the watch. The second hand clicks with a robotic measure. He counts the seconds, then loses count. He wonders if his mother ever turned the house upside down looking for something she lost. He imagines what she looked like digging her hand beneath the sofa cushions looking for her car keys or the television remote. He wonders if she was good at finding things when she was alive.
Sam walks to his car and sits in the passenger seat, waiting for Michael. Michael will be here in sixty seconds, he says out loud. A minute goes by and Sam looks around then back at his watch. He doesn’t see Michael’s car anywhere. He opens his glove compartment. Sam pictures his mother. She kept things in her glove compartment. She always knew where everything was. She did not lose things. She did not drink too much eggnog or fall out of her chair. Sam rubs his hands together, then looks at his hands, thinking nothing. He did not grow up in a house in which his mother had ever lived. When she died, his father sold the house and bought a newer one. His father thought it was a good financial investment and a fresh start. In elementary school, Sam and Michael went to a birthday party in their family’s old neighborhood. Their father drove them. Sam looked out the window. He remembers having his mother riding beside him in the backseat, loving the neighborhood around her. Sam’s father drives past their old house. Michael says something to their father. Their father says something to Michael that Sam cannot understand. They stop for thirty seconds in the middle of the road, then drive away.
Sam is angry at Michael. He thinks Michael should already be here, then feels the need to prepare himself for his brother’s arrival. He thinks this is a conscientious decision. What will he want to talk about when he gets here? Sam wants to convince Michael to drive across North America with him. He wants to point out to Michael that it is very important. They’re lives will change in a dramatic way. They will become different individuals.
Michael doesn’t come. He is fifteen minutes late. Sam thinks about going home to spite his brother. He wonders if the watch his father gave him is inaccurate; if – literally – the time handed down to him was flawed from the outset. He reads the engraving again and wants to laugh. He laughs. He cannot stop laughing. He stops and touches his stomach, feeling hungry, wondering if the woman who had found her lost coin had really found a different coin, not one of the original ten. Sam smiles, convinced there is a drawer somewhere in the bible woman’s home holding the real lost coin.
When Sam turns around Michael’s car pulls into the parking lot. He watches Michael park and debark, not bothering to lock his car. Sam thinks, It’s a piece of junk and doesn’t deserve to be locked.
How long have you been here? Michael says. What’s so funny?
Nothing, Sam says. I wanted to get here early.
Michael looks around. Sam holds up his watch and says, There’s a thirty minute wait.
Michael rolls his eyes then looks at the ground.
We can wait at the bar? Sam says. Michael nods. They walk inside.
What have you been doing? Michael says. You look lousy.
I don’t know, Sam says. I’m starving.
At the bar, Michael shakes his head. He orders two beers and hands one to Sam. It comes in a mug and the handle drips on the counter.
We shouldn’t drink too much if we haven’t eaten, Sam says.
I’m not really hungry, Michael says, guzzling. I’ll drink yours if I have to.
I don’t want to get hungover, Sam says. Don’t you have to work tomorrow?
Michael shrugs. I don’t care, he says, glancing at the television above the bar. His beer is already gone. Phil Collins sings a song. Golfers are waving clubs on a putting green. Sam looks at his beer, wondering what to do. He wonders what life would feel like if he never had to do anything. He picture his mother preoccupying herself in her spare time, power-walking up and down the sidewalk in the old neighborhood, vacuuming the living room carpet, rearranging the cushions on the sofa. Sam looks at Michael, then down at his beer. Michael looks at Sam cradling his mug.
What? Michael says.
What? Sam says.
You looked like you were about to say something, Michael says.
Sam shakes his head. When he does this he has trouble breathing. He closes his eyes and concentrates deeply on pulling oxygen in and out of his lungs. He feels his vertebrae compress and becomes momentarily disoriented, again. When he opens his eyes, nothing has changed.
The Lariat Poet
Oona, our postal carrier, is out of uniform tonight. I open the door to find her shivering on the porch, wearing an orange sundress embroidered with black dragonflies and plastic orange flip-flops. Her toes, their nails painted the same orange as the rest of the ensemble, are graying with frostbite. Her extremely long neck is encircled by nine rings of bronze and polished bone that clatter as she shivers.
With her slender gray fingers she hands me a package cocooned in “FRAGILE” tape and covered with customs stamp from countries I’ve never heard of: Moldova, Brobdingnag, Upper Volta. I check the return label: “Wow, it’s from Rory Lumpwell,” I say.
“You mean the wh-whatchacallit,” she says, hugging herself for warmth, “the lariat poet?”
“Laureate. Is there some reason why you’re not wearing a coat, Oona?”
“Zen ritual. Reversed s-seasons.”
“Ah, of course,” I say, closing the door on her.
In the kitchen I find my husband, Percy, sitting at the table, wearing a tattered burgundy velvet cape, drinking a White Russian from a squat tumbler, and reading The Best of the Journal of Tension Reduction. The room smells like earthworms, moss, and ripe melon.
“Who the hell’s here this time a night?” he growls.
I place the package on the table. Percy gets up, walks over to the knife drawer, and selects a long boning knife. Poised with the blade raised, he is like a
priest before a sacrament. His cape is open, revealing his muscular, masculine nakedness.
Tenderly he pierces the tape. Box flaps part like lips; foam peanuts erupt. The package contains an old-fashioned glass bottle full of milk and a rusty pistol.
“Seen one a them on th’ Antiques Roadshow,” he says, referring to the pistol. “Old West era.”
“You don’t say.”
The bottle has a label on which is written in a fastidious script, “Mother, mother! Always by the banister my milk-tooth mug of milk was waiting for me.” I read it aloud.
“Now what the hell you s’pose that’s about?” my husband says.
“I think I’m pregnant,” I say.
“Hot damn! Always wanted a son.”
“Well, but I don’t know yet if it’s a boy or a girl. And another thing is it’s prob’ly not yours. I had an affair with an entomologist.”
Percy takes the gun out of the box and points it at me, but when he pulls the trigger, a little flag pops out that says, “Thank you for playing!”
Throwing the pistol to the floor and picking up the boning knife instead, he lunges over the table. Leaping aside, I bash him on the head with the milk bottle.
I sit at the table and drink the rest of his White Russian, watching milk and blood drip from his hair onto the checkered linoleum floor.
I decide to go for a walk. As I’m putting on my boots in the hallway, Percy begins to moan.
Outside everything is an indistinct swirl of snow. Within minutes I can’t see my house, and my footprints have already been erased. I cry out, but the wind steals the sound from my mouth, adding it to its own inarticulate keening.
I have to keep moving. Soon enough I find myself at the foot of a small hill. At the top is parked a decrepit, brightly lit Bookmobile, the word “Bibliobus”
decaled in peeling gunmetal gray across its side.
As I approach, a long-haired child of indeterminate gender, whom I judge to be about seven, wearing a shapeless brown tunic and torn jeans, calls out,
“Took you long enough. Get in.”
Inside the cab of the Bookmobile, it is warm and dry. The child hands me a cup of hot cider and says, “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
I toss the steaming cider in the child’s face. Covering its round red face with its little pink hands, the child cries like a child.
“Shut up,” I say.
Obediently, the child lowers its hands and looks at me through puffy dark eyes. Blisters are blooming already on its left cheek and upper lip.
“What’s your name?” I say.
The child mumbles something.
“Who wants to know?” it says, rather sullenly.
Changing the subject, I say, “Do you have any books by Rory Lumpwell?”
“You are a very irritating child, you know that?”
“You’re a mean old lady. I hate you. Why did you come here? You prob’ly can’t even read.”
“Of course I can.”
“Prove it.” The child ducks out through a door at the back of the cab, reappearing a minute later with a thin book, which it thrusts into my hands. “Read this to me.”
It’s a musical score, the theremin part to the great Russian ballet Rapspierre. “Not fair,” I say. “Bring me something in English.”
“No can do,” the child says, pulling an iPod from the pocket of its jeans and inserting earbuds into its ears. Faint buzz of guitars as the child curls up on the seat and closes its eyes.
I climb from the cab through the back door into a large, bright room filled with a riot of books of many colors and sizes stacked floor to ceiling row upon row, books on all subjects haphazardly piled: Summa Theologica, Selected Verse of Henry Kissinger, How to Quit Smoking and Get Rich, The Mabinogion, and so on.
Although I look around for quite a while, I can’t find anything by Rory Lumpwell. While I’m looking, the snow keeps piling up around the Bookmobile. Now we’re trapped in here, and it’s still coming down.
TOO LATE THE SUN
All night the queen of maladies hung out in my kitchen, lighting cigarettes and wanting to discuss the futility of previous solutions, while the red cooler she had brought all the way on the subway remained unopened on the table as if nothing within was of interest – recyclable cans and bottles or a dog’s chew toy, and not an emergency heart packed in melting ice.
Who knows when she went down to the evening dimness of the stacks, but now she stands with her flabby back to us, slowly turning the pages of a long treatise on melancholy and quietly weeping. Anyone would think it was she herself who misshelved the books we needed. What about the burning curtains? I want to ask her. And what about the parking lot filled with abandoned babies? But she doesn’t look up, and if she did, she would see planes like silver crucifixes and a few tiny gray clouds scattered like the debris of some distant confusion.
As mourners do, I’ll cover the mirrors before I go out and still arrive in time for the last showing. The seats around me will all be empty, but toward the end, when even the music stops caring what happens next, the heavy-set usherette will prowl the aisles of another gloomy day. She’ll be there and then she won’t, and she’ll shine her stinging light in my face.
Painter’s Exhalations 326, 327, 328
Painters’ Exhalations 326
—after Clive Barker’s The Tree
The tree sits, many varieties
rhythmic segregation. Body
declares role of caregiver personality
mending heat-saturation among noon’s
cycled argument. Cliff’s edge
picture frame corner cut angled
mimic sun-palms’ throwing glare,
—divided arms articulate splay-time
—interrelated dictionary rewrite of
equating halved lives of sprout
inspired language of the philosopher’s
Painters’ Exhalations 327
—after Van Nelson’s Theatre of the Mind
handpasted diligence: wings
focus on sanity’s elongated palms
curling into puppeteers’
naturalized state of ersatz
Performance swirls, a
fingerthumb print actuality
harvests itself proclamation
Watchers, solo. Watcher.
Mind engulfed architecture studies
miracle presentation to the subjective,
because of the mind’s many
Painters’ Exhalations 328
—after Sylvia Tait’s Running Time
expropriate the body’s will
hide into the vanish-language of missing,
Away, the decapitated
independence of likeable routine. Mental
gruel, fight self fight
constant contact between irritated wrist
and garbing, bracelet-style watch. Time
the constant circle
of breakable contours:
batteryless, forgetfulness, isometric
against need to form solace
outside of need of guilty
Danny P. Barbare
Watering the flowers, the petunias,
without pause or remark
snow falls steadily on
the cars that have been here
for quite some time in a ditch
no sound or movement
nor any notice and it falls
steadily on the skid-
marks and the blood of the little one
thrown long and clear and his body broken
and then falls
heavily onto this place which will soon be
as two mountains sitting sagely
beside the road and the snow does not
care for its appearance nor
its work and the snow only falls
steadily and then it stops
the juices are ready
the fruits are ripe
the silence is here
I am hammering this rusty nail
to the shaking tool-shed
I am hoping to make it
and I thought I was a fool
for doing that
but I kept on with the hammer
Prelude: Magic Hands
The problem with the rain
and the wind
and the knotting of energy
in the wood in the trunks
of the trees
is the problem
of the rain
and the wind
and the carbon
in the stems of the trees
the circles of memory kept
in the stony depths
of the rings of the trees
the petrified bark of the trees
stoned and stained by time
The bark and the leaves and the digestive tracts
of the wallabies
are separated by the function
and by the laws of syntax
that command the going of this
after the going of that
and after the laws of syntax were rooted
in the stems of the brains of the animal-men
Now the trees go after the ground and their roots lie
and burrow and lie in the ground
and then when they get old
they fall back on to the ground like falling leaves
So the ground is separated by a preposition
from the tree
or by the law of gravity
and the magnetism of the sun
that pulls the tree toward it like a marionette is pulled
toward the hand of the puppeteer
and dances like the sun-dappled dance
on the leaves of the tree
that are pulled away
from the ground like a mast is suspended
above the white horses
that gallop across the top of the water
a minor excavation, or a compendium on purging the mind
pull the dopamine and the light switch ever so conveniently to the left
there is only one way it seems one way
“in the back” she said
“in the back with the rest of the tools you’ve been hiding”
in the dark in a blindness I found the thoughts in the hole
through a recess in the hypothalamus that had seemed closed
a fountain a fontanel a forgotten finite yet alive
“this path will do” spoke the girl in the corner hiding in the happenstance this will do
to see in these crags of fragmented time stuffed away in cellular annals
hard to see in the back of your eyes your fingers
so on the table this same table
it sits to be thrown out with the rest of the trash
tomorrow I will buy the sheets
and wrap the wounds in a fresh shroud
with a fresh song and no minor keys
We like to have sex to the cadence of Law & Order or rather he likes to have sex to the cadence of Law & Order and I’m dating him so I’ve adapted. If it’s another crime procedural drama on TV, he’s just not into it. He doesn’t care that CSI is the hotter show.
It’s the familiar sound effect that gets him going. “It’s like porn,” he told me after our third date when we were embarrassing ourselves in the back seat of his car like we were sweaty teenagers working fast food jobs and licking the scent of salt and grease off each other’s bodies.
“I have cable,” I whispered, half joking, and he came right there, in the back seat of his car, in the palm of my hand. I wiped him on his jeans and then made a hasty exit. I forgot my phone in his car, accidentally on purpose.
We’re all tongue kisses and groping upon the reveal of the victim, the horrified reaction of the unwitting passerby, the inspection of the crime scene, the witty quip by the hardened, cynical New York detective wearing his cheap suit, flashing his badge. As the opening credits roll, he’s hard and I’m wet and I’m willing to forgive his popular culture proclivities.
By the time the coroner or emergency room physician or psychiatrist gives the detectives a rundown of all the things that went wrong in the victim’s life, by the time the captain has delivered her marching orders, we’re naked and he’s breathing heavy and trembling and I’m putting a hand on his chest and saying, “Baby, calm down.”
Thing is, he never knows how it all ends. He doesn’t see the trial and the bargaining and the defendant demanding to take the stand. He misses the twist and the verdict and the final prosecutorial quip. He’s asleep by then.
Y’know doc, sometimes
I close my eyes on the highway.
Up to nine seconds once.
Always at least 80 miles per hour,
when my mom’s old toyota corolla starts shaking.
I wonder if it’s simply because
I’m still driving my mom’s car.
Well doc, it’s hard to say
what motivates me these days.
Mom says I need a reason to get out of bed.
Yes doc, other than to drive her car.
Is it that farfetched to just wanna
Bum around in bed
now that I’m a graduate?
I remember when you told me
about your colleague
who retreated to his car trunk
junked out for days.
Is it wrong to envy that dichotomy?
No doc, when I grow up I don’t wanna be a junkie,
that’s so 90s.
Oh, my torn jeans?
They’re authentically worn out.
Wait, you aren’t supposed to be
When are we gonna chat
About my childhood?
Yea, I guess that’s your line,
but I’m getting kind of nervous
thinking about the future.
Enough to be willing
to pull up the past.
Look doc, I’ve been seeing you
for eight years.
Am I ever going to be normal?
Yea, you’re right, sorry to use
such a normative word,
I’m just curious.
The truth is doc,
I’ve been on these meds for twelve years –
that’s half my life now,
and I ain’t been angry since I was eighteen,
and thought I was transcendent,
but now it’s all I got.
Oh, time’s up?
That’s usually my line…
Well, look, I need some new scripts.
Yea, I take more of those now.
Temporary Vision, Permanent Alteration
A certain revelation-twirl occurred near the outer portion
of my weakening vision. This twirl, two-fold,
automatic blur but clear enough to alter
stillness of night’s monotone gray. Alone,
I needed physical holding of actual emotion.
This twirl was a gorgeous glow, golden,
galvanized noise. As I became entranced and
eerily similar to obsessive behavior, I noticed
a pathway of plunging leaves. Approaching,
a language of buzz. Movement transformations,
praise, synonyms for what lives unseen and
therefore untainted by dangerous definitions, stigmas.
The twirl put on its wings, absconded. I longed
and became the brand of depressed unwilling
to walk towards what’s conventionally intact.
While Wondering, Occurrences Translate to Answers
Morning’s crown of emeralds was left
hanging on horizon’s left-handed doorknob.
Its door of unobstructed visitors
remained unfastened. Her crown often
as ornate, became renamed
hidden behind opaque cloth of fog’s
routine attire. Bouquet of brittle music,
toothpick thick slants of rain meeting
concrete. Those, the comfortable with
splashes of blue and wet fondling fingers,
danced. Others, the routine-based
conspirators of boredom
watched through the ennui of a bedroom’s window,
and imagined when again the crown would
shine amid the broken glass mosaic of
day’s burnished angles.