Monday, November 10, 2014

just another word mandala

The painters came while I was asleep. Their brushes thick and fast, like yocto-practitioners, like insistent exterminators. While I dreamt -- a languid lapping of tide against pier, the swaddling gravity within that tide, a continuous and forceful Yes, a vast rippling of Yes to the horizon, the obvious implication that fits perfectly in a dream because it thus comforts without words: Something pulls me, desires me, will provide path for me, once I allow myself sink into the water --  the painters erased every trace of me in this place.

Behind the television console I had been writing poetry. It had been my secret. This small little space that I had to crawl into. The pencils were weak and I would laugh more often than not when I broke a tip and had to stop to sharpen. It would've been easier to sharpen several pencils but I came to enjoy the unexpected pauses almost as much as finding words. And I liked the jaggedness of it all. The occasional slopes. The brittleness of some lines resembling only scratches. Or words so small I had to get the magnifying glass to see what the hell I'd written.

The Box Room walls were almost covered with ink. Up one side and down the other. A jungle of thought, much of which should've been kept to myself. But there it was. A record of my struggle with me. Several novel starts and one finish. Stories. How many stories! An almost fable. Questions I had about the particular works and questions about the process with the occasional untested answer, which I suppose makes it a hypothesis. I hadn't yet begun filling the baseboards, nor the ceiling. I just now consider the door. I don't know why I hadn't thought of the door, it might've been first, the metaphor almost insultingly obvious.

Soon my brain will fill with questions about the painters and how they even knew about my walls, why they felt it necessary to come now, so soon -- I had plenty of space yet to fill. But this morning I struggle to think, I only feel: Loss, great loss, unbearable I want to tear at myself loss because without my wall etchings, what is left? Of course I remember a girl and how I felt when I was we and after when I was again I. This feeling is much the same as that feeling. Such a gaping space now exists. What is this space? Is it even a part of me? It feels so unfamiliar. Do I fill it? How? With what? I won't be the same if I fill it, or if I don't. The best is lost. All is lost.

But that is not all that I feel. Another feeling exists along side the first. Everywhere is white and here am I, quite in the middle of it. Like a beach without footprints or litter or the acrid smell of suntan lotion. I can watch the tide work from here, can feel it in the breeze even, and the uneven patterns of the seagulls.





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Saturday, October 25, 2014

awesome analogy

Runnin' the ball is like makin' romance.

                                     - Walter Payton, NFL running back, deceased


Friday, October 24, 2014

TH said:

The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.

Unlucky, I guess


It is only five city blocks from the hotel bar to his apartment. The jolly jaunt he calls it. He renditions "Singin' in the Rain" for all of the first block and most of the next. The sidewalk fully empty at this hour. A taxi and two autos pass but it's doubtful they take note of his exuberant and slightly awkward  performance. The office buildings are empty and black. The street lamps burn, the traffic signals blink and shine their colors, but it's almost three in the morning. No one's watching.

Except for the woman. She's watching. She's been watching. Since the the hotel bar, snuggled in the corner booth. Since they pushed out the hotel doors together. Past the valet attendants and almost onto the street. Amused at first, when he dropped her hand and broke into dance and song. Then - why is he over there and over there and now over there instead of over here? But, she kept on walking. And in the direction he pointed her in. That's all they need do. Ha! He jumps in and out of a new spin. A slip, but only slightly. He wishes the sky would open. Just for him and her. A deluge even. He left the umbrella at home tonight but still.

He skips to a stop beside her. A bit out of breath. She doesn't question the opening, pressing tightly against him. Pulling a free arm into hers. Whispering. It feels to the man like he just got rushed. Which he did. It causes him to stagger. Almost a stumble. The sudden weight added to his person applying a different tension to his feet, requiring he calculate and adjust, requiring he concentrate to regain balance. Requiring he come out of his reverie. It wouldn't do to fall, or even stumble, in front of the woman. That wouldn't do at all. After restoring order, he pulls her in tighter. One face upon the other. His smiling - Darling! He slows them down to little more than a plod and she easily falls into step. Like a practiced partner.

So they walk. Wrapped as lovers. Her high heels scoffing pavement seems echo into perpetuity. He loves that sound! Considers it enthralling. He gathers her tighter to him. Inhales with force. Again. She smells like a woman thinks a man would want her to smell. He notes it as the first deception. It is not the first. He knows that. But he's not in the mood to quibble. It's the first notable deception. Distracted, he laughs at the whatever she is going on about. Loudly. Recklessly. As if they are the only two people alive. He feels lighter on his feet. Steadier. It is necessary to have a beginning point, he thinks. He wonders how many more deceptions she'll reveal before he starts removing her clothes. He will scrutinize her more fully then. More deliberately. She'll get his full attention then. He can get the all of it then. For now, he is contented to walk arm in arm, listen to the singing.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

the far-reaching Splendor of the poet Mudd

I had been blasting the music, so I turned it down to an elevator music volume. I stretched out on the sofa, head tilted just right on a soft pillow from the bedroom. It had been a rigorous morning so I thought grabbing a quick nap prudent. Before the poet Mudd was to call. Gather and quiet the faculties in the event he would choose provocation. We've been known to disagree. Sturdy up, in other words. Mudd might want to argue. He has little sympathy for the feeble.

Odd thing: just earlier I had responded to the question, What are you working on? with the much too vague answer, Several pieces that I waffle between. But my response wasn't too vague because it was less than fully truthful. It was too vague because it minimized the full degree of my waffling. Some mornings, in the same writing session, I'll work back and forth between three different pieces. Long pieces. What will hopefully eventually become long pieces.

I have no idea how this process got started. I get disgusted with one piece and rather than erase everything I've written I click over to different piece. I turn on the computer in the morning and start opening files. I hate the idea of this practice. I hate the practice of this practice. Pour into one thing and come up when finished. That's how to do it.

But that's not how I do it. Hate it or not hate it. I put words here and then I put words there. A friend told me not even two months ago to just push through the trouble and come out on the other side. You'll see, she said. I agreed with her. Sure. Makes sense. Plus, she was speaking from experience. Good. I'm glad I ran across you. I'll do that. And the next morning I started two more pieces.

So I laid my head down and instead of counting sheep I counted pieces I've opened. Considered the progress, or lack thereof, made so far. A sort of cataloging. This one, magical realism, ok, coming along, this one next, I don't know yet, two different POV approaches with it but basically the same material, first person here, but yes, same story, okay, genre attempt here, not going great but not terrible either, and then this one, newer, so my enthusiasm level is still high, dystopian, and yes, it's going alright, probably better than alright, so far, don't jinx it, and then this other new one, hmmn, a genre (thriller maybe?) attempt, but may end up dystopian or literary, what the hell is it anyway, who knows who cares, did I forget anything, what am I forgetting? I  just need a quick nap. Fuck me but can I at least get thirty minutes sleep here?

I couldn't fall asleep. I kept feeling like I was missing something on the list. WTF, I said to myself, the list isn't important, I was only trying to get my mind quiet to go to sleep. Not to give it something to agonize over to keep me awake. Then I was visualizing my document folder, scanning the titles, down one row and then down the next, amazing what the mind takes pictures of, slowly scanning, no rush, marginally hoping that this new exercise would put me out. I smiled internally when I came across Prodigy: _______, the subtitle yet to be determined, but admittedly, I am a bit too fond of the Prodigy part of the title, even if I change it to, A Prodigious ______, or something else altogether, you know how it goes with titles and writing in general. Take the pleasure when it's there. Don't look back if you can avoid it. Grab today and tomorrow when it comes. Until it doesn't. (Yes, I am very aware how hypocritical those comments are based on somewhat recent events. An apology will come. Sooner than later.)

Although I couldn't get to sleep, the experience wasn't unpleasant. The couch fit well today and so I didn't have to stir much. That's relaxing in of itself. My brain had slowed considerably, not quite a reverie, but perhaps a pleasant haze, somewhere between the two, my questioning thoughts now more languid, less inquisitive, hell, I might just doze off after all, when a dominant thought showed itself, Write the Ministry. Go there and report what you see. You already know what it looks like - look at the stationary, you described it, in detail. Remember? Don't worry about Brazil. I'll tell you what happens in Brazil. Just go and describe the Ministry already. Find out what those fuckers are up to. What's one more piece to work on? You want John to die of old age already?

Can a thought be that many words, multiple sentences? Probably not. Reporting after the fact is not an exact science. Whether it was a voice or a thought - neither feels fully correct or incorrect - I consider it much the same. What the hell, right? So I opened and formatted a blank text document. Ready to go for first thing in the morning. Let's see how many words I can get on that page the next few days. I suppose if I find out what those fuckers are up to John will find me with the rest. Or not. It's not like I don't have plenty else to do.


James exits the Box for an evening out: others gathered


The first chuckle came near the bottom of page one. A short, almost timid, burst. It shouldn't even be labeled a chuckle - little more than a polite ahem. But then others from the audience followed suit, and with increased volume. The chuckles once started continued while he read the balance of the eight pages of text. So, as is often the case, for simplicity sake, the label from the last gets applied to the first, and whatever lays in between. Thus, they all chuckled.

The astute reader might say - What, chuckles? It sounds to me like laughter. Why not say, they laughed, and be done with it? Because they fucking chuckled, how's that, astute reader. Because there's implied in laughter an honesty, a spontaneity, that this audience lacked. One chuckle at a time, they blurted lies. Call it one long nervous echo.

He finished reading and it was quiet. No one said anything while the reader arranged his typed sheets in front of him. Like he was setting a place at the table for dinner. A formal dinner. No hurry, this one. Once satisfied with the arranging of sheets, he uncapped a pen and surveyed the room. James counted eighteen mouths. Plus his own.

The reader sat forward, pen moving across pages, while they plied him with words like they had chuckles. Which was more galling is impossible to declare. James thought they played some odd game. Each trying to top the other? Where are the hidden rules? Funny, this one said. Yes, yes, they nodded. Good stuff, that one said. Yes, yes, they nodded. I believe you've got it there. Yes yes, fuck, you know the rest. You might have found a niche. I do think so. Maybe a touch up, here and there. Smooth it out, you know. Tighten up a few things, not much. Get it out there then. Yes yes yes, they almost all nodded.

When Pound tried recruit Frost, he said they squeezed the water out. That's what they did. Huh, say again? Squeeze the water out, you see. That's all we do. The best remains. Only squeeze the water out. Expertly, you'll see. Frost said what the damn hell and returned home. Then he wrote Good Fences.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

little room with a big name

You'll hear all about the Box another time. James has written volumes about it. Others would say: Not That Interesting. I will admit that compared to the old writing space, this new writing space seems like punishment. Harsh punishment at that. And yet

no one or no thing can get James out of there. He must relish the ordinary and desolate. The disconnect from everything that breathes. The absolute stillness when the Pandora stops and he doesn't notice for several hours.  Before long he will throw down a mattress in there. Piss in a can. Think to close and lock the door when he sits down to write.

So he's found something that pleases him. Time will tell what that produces. Maybe he will share a piece of something he's working on. Or maybe he only reacts to the burn in his head. Hurry hurry hurry. Get it all down now. Like any of us have anywhere to be.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

the familiar Stranger visits

Recently I adjusted the chemicals in my body. The details are unimportant. It was an effort to fight back against mental lethargy, or even, infirmary. An effort to reclaim my ability to think as I once thought, and not so very long ago.

It is too early to claim any lasting victory but I believe I have, at the very least, turned the tide. My brain seems function better. Grasp concepts better. Stretch to envelop a thought versus retreat from the enormity of it. Or, accurately appraise the thought as not so large after all. 

But today I noticed something odd. I would label it wondrous if it hadn't frightened me so. I was writing and concentrating on a piece, three hours in, thereabouts, when I felt like my brain's circuitry was on fire. Gently burning, but definitely burning. It was an odorless sensation, so I couldn't identify it by how we all come to identify burning - by sniffing - but I was nonetheless certain it was burning. It felt how the smell of burning would feel if not a smell. For a good minute or two I sat and tried to identify the sensation, the feeling, as something other than burning, to re-categorize it into some other category that was less frightening than the idea that my brain synapses were burning, on fire, presumably from the exertion I had just subjected them to. But there was not another category. My brain was burning.

As I sat there feeling afraid, I realized I was also thrilled. Excited, at least. That I was able to once again exert my faculties to the point that they wished rebel or resist or self-destruct, whatever this oddness might be, well, damn it but that felt good. The thought of it, correct or not, felt good. Surely anybody might feel the same had they spent even half a day walking about in my muddled head. Finally, liberation! The Short Happy Life of Francis McCumber, and all that. But, the fear remained. Very much side by side with the elation. Also, a bit of anger. Just when I was beginning to feel like I'm getting back in the game and then - Game Over?

There's more. This had happened once before, a few days earlier, similar scenario, and perhaps because of the shock of it, the newness of it, I felt at that time only the fear and none of the elation. Maybe that is why I thought then that I recognized this peculiar burning in my head (the sensation of it felt exactly the same both times, and I didn't mention this earlier but, it felt as if had I sniffed hard enough, long enough, surely I would smell the wiring burning; but, because I did not - the fear was so strong I just couldn't bring myself to do it - and because, given another chance, or ten, I won't sniff long enough, I have no way of knowing for certain if this is true or not) as something inherently familiar to all of us. Some thing we are all programmed to recognize when we make its acquaintance. I felt certain Death was moving about in my head. 

In retrospect, both times I experienced "it" the same. It felt as if I was being - turned off? Not exactly. Fade to black, they say in the movie business. Yes, more like that. But the fade to black hadn't started yet, though I felt I stood very much on its precipice. I felt surrounded by Fade to black. Maybe "I" was the only thing that was not Fade to black. The other distinctive feature is that it didn't feel of my doing. It didn't feel as part of my internal processes, although surely that was my circuitry burning. But I never felt like my circuitry chose to burn, or malfunctioned in any way to cause the burn. So as I sat considering, auditioning explanations, the only answer that fit, and immediately fit once discovered, was Death. Moving about my head. Burning - maybe those are just his footprints? Dawdling (will he allow me a few more words like he did the critic Stewart Gerald Stuart, as regrettable as that decision may have proven)?

I'll admit, there had been times, more frequently than I would admit, when the idea of a long rest, an actual restful rest, was appealing. It began feeling like Path. Is my time spent, I wondered. Has the best of it passed? Yet I continued, put a foot in front of a foot. That is what one does, even when at times it feels like waiting. Killing time, an awful phrase, but there it is. All this while the questioning - to what end? What do I move toward? Do I move in any sort of purposeful fashion or do I merely wander? It feels I only stagger.

The poet Alan Mudd once told me that I will never know I do not exist. We may have been sitting on a patio enjoying coffee and cigarettes and conversation. Enjoying ideas and each other's stubbornness. But it's much more likely bourbon was being over-consumed, Mudd insisting in his insistent drunken way when he instructed (yes, Mudd often self-appointed the position of instructor on the topic of deity) me such. Hell, he may have meant to say something entirely different, which, as humorous, and plausible, as that thought is to consider, it's also irrelevant, because stammer or not, fumble about or not, spill his goddamn bourbon or not, he did, after all, manage to spill those particular words out. Once out, once heard or read, they attribute to him, and that is that.

An admission: my affairs are not in order. There is much undone. Almost everything. Words unwritten, words unsaid. What regrettable timing, I say. I expected timing, you ask. You are right of course. I suppose magical thinking finds root in all of us. In some quadrant of our unawares it flourishes. The unconsidered. Unchallenged. Unexamined. Please forgive the excessive negativity. It is unintentional. And, no, I am not trying to be funny. These are the words that come right now. Shall I just go sit in the corner and be silent? It is too late to pout now. Finally, that is obvious. So I'll push forward the best I can with what I'm given while I wait for the burn to come again.
     



Monday, August 11, 2014

Things to do at the Motel

The whores had been going hard at it all night. Since after eight anyhow. End of month they get themselves busy. Bills to pay, like everyone else. So the constant foot traffic above my head and the thumping and scraping of the bed made it hard to get to sleep. The goddamn trucker convention they decided to have in the parking lot outside my door made it impossible. One of those fuckers must've breaker one nined all his good buddies about the whores. It was near 3AM when I finally sat up in the bed and said, Fuck it.

I took an extra long hot shower. It's been known to steady me. Left my hair wet, combed straight back. Put on the purple shirt the idiot cowboy left behind, his thinking, I guess, that I wouldn't come collect his marker. Fuck me, but people are stupid. I decided on the tight jeans and the giant belt buckle. Then the steel toed boots that could put a man's nuts into his chest, if need be. The black stetson. The black leather coat, even though it was hot as fuck out. This coat drops all the way to the knees. With deep pockets for carrying incidentals.

Fuck, but it's dark, was my first thought after stepping outside. The interstate maybe three stones throw away, all the lights there, and still it was so fucking dark here. The Turk that owns this joint had killed the lights in the parking lot. The outside lamps too. Cheap fucker, that one. So the darkness was real and not my imagination. I lit a smoke and decided I liked the dark just fucking fine. Took a long pull from the pint of Jack and sloshed it around like mouthwash before swallowing it down. I wanted all of me awake.

It's eight doors from my room to the staircase. There wasn't any hurry, so I walked like someone dressed like I was dressed walks when not in a hurry. I smoked and looked around, casually, like a watchman. Saw nothing in the dark. Listened to my footsteps on the cement. Had another smoke and eventually I got there. Seeing the staircase and the room under it reminded me of the time the Turk got over on me. Put me in the room under the staircase. "It is closer to the pool, and the soda machine too," he told me with a little too much smile and a little too much enthusiasm. Fuck, shit place like this, a room's a room, I figured. I figured wrong. Under the staircase when the whores are working full out is a cattle call for every fat fuck in town. Thump, thump, thump, all goddamn night.

The weight of the leather coat plus the heat of the night was wearing on me pretty good when he pulled up. I was sweating, which I strongly dislike. I pulled a cloth from inside my jacket and wiped away the sweat from my face, then the fingers and palms on both hands. He pulled up like he owned the goddamn place. High beams on, right into the parking space in front of room 108, the room under the staircase. Unoccupied at the moment. Even in the dark a shine from his maroon caddy. If something's beautiful enough the light'll find it. Then the door opened and he slid one leg out, then the other. Slowly. Unsteadily, like the drunk or infirm. Maybe both. Or maybe just an old one.

He got the door shut okay, lights off and doors locked, car keys in his pocket, got himself steadied and moving in my direction. He put out a foot for the bottom step without a word or a nod. He started up the stairs with a big fucking nothing, as if I was invisible, or as if I was going to just let him pass because he pretended it should be so. My foot was already on the staircase. Had been there first. And this was narrow passage.

"You pay down here." I put a grip on his shirt. Had a look at his old haggard face. Fifty years ago he probably got more than his share of pussy. Free pussy. But that was then. Old broads probably don't do it for him. "Two bills, mister. Fifty more if you want it bare."

He looked at me blankly. Like drunks and idiots do, everything processing a few clicks slower than real time.

Finally he reached a hand into a pocket, pulled out an impressive wad. A rubber band tight around it, like some gamblers do. Gangsters too. It seems they take special pleasure in removing the rubber band and then peeling off a few bills. The sound it makes is distinct, if done right. But the bills must be reasonably new and crisp. I know a bookie that won't take payment with an old bill. And he's trained up that degenerate lot. Go figure.

The old guy finally got the rubber band off and unwrapped two c-notes from the outside. Fumbled around trying to get the rubber band back around the wad. Four, maybe five grand, I was thinking. If it's all hundreds. A coin flip it is or isn't. Maybe sixty forty it is.

The old guy pushed the two bills at my free hand, my other hand still gripping his shirt, our transaction not yet finalized. Rather than just hand me the money, he was trying to fold the two bills, like for a tip stuffed in the valet's hand, or the maitre d's hand, or the shoe shine boy's tiny little goddamned hand. The folding of the money some sort of custom. Some sort of unspoken unwritten code that no boy can be expected to know. Here, kid - lad, boy, sonny,  - for you, kid, two crumpled bills moved from the big hand to the little hand. The big hand a smile and then not another thought of the little hand. An almost pointless transaction. Meaningless. Except for the spectacle. Watch the little hand disappear the bills into his pocket. Quickly, too quickly. With the speed of the beggar. So well practiced at such a young age. Almost a prodigy. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look.

Again he tried folding and pushing the two c-notes into my free hand. Again he failed. Comically failed, if I had been in any kind of mood to find humor in a drunk old fucker acting the fool in a bad part of town in the middle of the night. My hand snatched the two bills, slipped them into a coat pocket. The other hand loosened the grip on his shirt. Alright. Off you go, old fucker. Room 216.

I watched him climb the stairs. A step at a time, like a fucking toddler. And he was still trying to get the rubber band back around the money. He's a determined fucker, I thought. Have to give him that much. I figured he would eventually get the money wrapped and all the way up them stairs and to the whore's room. Probably give her a better ride than she was expecting, him being old and drunk and all. Them whores tend to size up the johns quickly, form a quick first impression, and roll with it. Evidence to the contrary be damned. So the old fucker'd likely surprise her good. So much so that she'd think to tell the other whores tomorrow over pancakes and coffee at the Denny's. Then they'd all laugh. Where would they be without old fuckers.

Eight doors down, on the left. Not a shouted direction but more than a whisper. If he heard the words he didn't acknowledge. Likely focused on nothing but the finish line. My lips were within inches of his ear when I thought to repeat the directions but decided no point. I sapped him above his right ear with the slapjack that stays in the leather coat. The sound wasn't much. Twenty feet away and you wouldn't hear a thing.

The money he hadn't yet gotten wrapped fell free. Released. His hands opened like puppet hands, the strings being pulled. Slowly. So slowly. The same for his legs. They gave out, as if they had been filled with air before and now were deflating. And so the whole of him sunk towards the pavement. Like the inflatable clown when the music stops and the children run home. The old guy was out cold when he hit down. He landed gently, all things considered. I gathered up the money and stuffed my pockets. Then I sat the old guy up, grabbed a good hold of him with my left hand, made a fist with my right hand and blasted him a good one, square on the jaw.

I didn't like how his head recoiled from the punch, but them's the breaks. Nothing could be done about that. I had to punch him, and a good one, in case the law was ever to come around asking questions. The old guy came on to me, officer. Propositioned me. Asked me to blow him, or fuck him in the ass. So, yeah, I punched the old pervert, just one good shot to back him the fuck up, and he must've hit his head when he fell down. I don't know nothing about no money. Maybe you should ask them whores upstairs. What is he doing over here in the middle of the night anyway? Did you ask him that? Decent folk are home asleep. Sounds like the old fucker got exactly what he had coming.




Saturday, August 9, 2014

shifted spaces

No more 13th floor. No more fifty six windows. No more sky view. No more shimmering lights. The L desk shoved against wall, its design now superfluous. Point my head left or right, it no longer matters. Spin around in the chair - the resultant view identical: wall.

Fifty six windows exchanged for this 9'6" x 8'4". If I were angry about my new circumstances I might ask after the other two inches - the floor plan calls for 9'6" x 8'6" - or I might call this hole a blemish. I might call it a lack of imagination - the architect unable to draw what he was unable to intuit. Every space must be a puzzle to solve or a mistake to admit. So in some drawer somewhere, in some filing cabinet, this building's blueprint says utility room or walk in closet or office and, if this is correct, such label should be affixed in the smallest faintest print because no man wants his errors shouted to the world.

But I am not angry about it. Not in the least. And now my space has changed. And what follows, what is produced or not, from this desk will be changed. And like it or not like it that is how it goes. Yesterday is spent. Nostalgia provides no shelter. Quite the contrary. The nostalgic fellow, when he finally looks up one day, finds himself buried entirely in foreign soil. He recognizes none of it. Not the cool moisture against his skin nor the earthen finality swaddling him. At that moment he may even feel cheated, although it is all product of his own shoveling. Go figure.

So one space has been exchanged for another. Grand panoramic becomes base narrow. Breathe exhale is now gasp and spit. At least this is how it feels at the moment. Opinions could shift as we settle in. Once this box becomes more familiar. As unlikely as that may be.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

girl here girl there


This stranger takes two towels into the bathroom to shower. Dampens them both. One almost dripping. Not a trace of steam when she finally exits. Toothpaste stain on the mirror.

And from across the world she still writes letters. Daily. I feel obligated to open them. Some days I read them. Some days I sit down to write her back. I mail her nothing.

This stranger eats what I serve without comment. More Cabernet? Yes. My soap smells good on her. The shampoo not so much. While she pushes my food around her plate like a child, I make a note to find a good shampoo. Something more fully pungent.

And once, when she and I were we, I felt as if a bullet could not pierce my skin. My mind sharpened and my body strengthened. Dealing bottoms and seconds on Lyle Avenue in a room full of punk guineas and mobsters and taking down all the cash. She couldn't have been prouder.

This stranger is less awkward without clothes. Her description is unnecessary. She is of a type that I favor. Who has sex with a complete stranger? With a little imagination they all can be so familiar. When she bounces I encourage her to tilt her head back, throw her hair back. Just a bit more. Yes, like that.

And when they put their fists to my face and their heels to my ribs she was nowhere to be found. She stayed nowhere while I was in the hospital. And after. While I tried to learn to run twenty balls with mangled fingers. While I hardened. While I planned on those motherfuckers.

Her head rests on my chest. I decide I don't hate the shampoo. Push a finger across her scalp. Then two. Like a witless rumination.

The alarm clock rings now. I push her off of me. Dress myself. She is lethargic or she languishes. I don't care. Get out, girl. Get up and get out, girl. She frowns or maybe she pouts. Silly silly silly girl. Get the fuck out. Now, goddammit.







Friday, February 21, 2014

Games to play at the motel (when down on your luck)

The swarthy man seemed surprised that we had the same laptop ("They are the same!") and maybe this was enough for him to persist through the difficulties in getting me connected. Maybe it was just professional pride - Free Internet – it said on the sign. On the office window too. Either way he pushed through with sweat running down from his scalp to the carpet. He looked very tired. Maybe the sweat made him look worse. His little girl – they showed up hand in hand, “Her mother is at the store,” his explanation - swiped a quarter off the dresser when she thought I wasn't looking. She seemed well-practiced.

After the rub and tug girl toweled off and checked the mirror for the last time, moving her pouty lips counter-clockwise for good luck, she left. Then I drew open the curtain. I shuffled the cards and settled in for a game of solitaire to pass the time. My eyes half on the asphalt and half on the swimming pool across the parking lot. No eye candy, just children jumping and splashing. Cheap thin walls mean I could hear every word. Children speak such nonsense.

I shuffled on while listening to the children. Eventually there came faces against the window. Not leering faces but hopeful greedy faces. Then knocks on the door. One man brought a table from his room and another some chairs. I popped one of the beers I'd iced earlier and sent a boy for whiskey and donuts. He asked to play but this was to be a man's game. I thought to laugh at his ignorance but did not. Ten bucks for the errand, kid, and you come out way ahead I told him. Believe me when I tell ya, you come out way the fuck ahead.

Sam from 104 had like ten pockets and pulled money out of all of them. He had a grave face and gambled like it. Lifeless, mechanical, run off and out from the first whiff of danger. Totally dead money. I raise, said Morris, a great low voice that almost rumbled. I raise. Again. Again. Morris, the aggressive guy, raise raise raise. Morris who liked hearing his own voice almost as much as I did. I would listen to him read the obituaries. Sweet Morris. You've got pocket two's I told him, the time he pushed all-in. You’ve got shit, I told him. Pay me to see, he said, the time his voice didn't rumble so much. Yes, I will pay.

After they all left and I had gone to bed there came a knock. It was the boy. He had sneaked out and so I let him in and we played gin rummy. I turned on the HBO so he could see some tits and listen to the fake moaning. I gave him some of the whiskey and a few cigarettes. I took all of his money and he owes me thirty more that he promised to steal today from his mother's purse. He left satisfied enough. Dumb fucking kid. 




Sunday, February 9, 2014

Toska


Russian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: "No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 AM

James sleeps, or an approximation of such. His routine calls for him to roll over every thirty or so minutes, shifting the weight from one shoulder to the other, sometimes jostling himself awake momentarily, bumping himself from a dream state into an almost stupor. An annoyed almost stupor. Particularly if the dream was saucy.

This morning we will leave the pirate's music off, better to hear the grunts of the eighteen wheeler shifting gears somewhere below and out of view, perhaps a food truck making commissary delivery to a nearby hotel, or maybe a long hauler resuming his journey after a night's sleep at the La Quinta. Maybe he had himself a girl and a bottle, a quaint notion that is less quaint in the actuality than in the notion, many of these truckers beyond gross in both appearance and disposition, some also very simpleminded, and pity the poor thing that earns a living lifting her skirt for the likes of them. So maybe it was merely the appeal of a hot shower and fresh sheets that attracted our trucker, no one here cares if he had a drink or two, surely he's sober by now, and so he has refilled his thermos with coffee and is off to other parts, his noise now replaced by the swift chopping of air coming from the transport helicopter descending on the hospital across the street. It is clear now why they call them choppers, such beautiful vibrant sound as they cut and carve the air. And in the background plays the soft steady pulsing of vehicles on the interstate, as unnoticed and constant as a lung filling and emptying.

No doubt the sounds are lovely but it is the sight of the lights that demands one get out of bed to witness. At least one not named James. If we had time to count, surely they would number a million or more. Such extraordinary simplicity. Nothing more than little blinking dots spread against the horizon and settled along side some fatter and brighter ones, a few fuller and more constant ones, all strategically placed and not just randomly scattered so that there remains sufficient darkness to accentuate the brilliance.

Santa Rosa Street cuts through the heart of this canvas with an empty stillness that grounds the whole scene, makes it somewhat believable, and the only light permitted to shine on this stretch are the three traffic lights that alternate between red and green whilst nary an automobile trespasses. This beautiful aberration can not last more than a minute or two. Then I will look and see the headlight of that first vehicle accelerating in this direction, into this captured stillness. And I think that will be okay: the lone traveller offers its own resonance.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

After Hours Online: an interview excerpt with Dickie Short Arms

Dickie Short Arms, owner/operator of Dickie's Joint (also: Place, Spot, Game, ____), the longest tenured proprietor of record in the Tri-State area:

AHO:     It has been too long since last we talked. What have you been up to?
Dickie:   What the fuck you think I've been up to? Biz-niz. Or are you wanting to ask about my love life?
AHO:     Business is good?
Dickie:    Yeah. What the fuck. You gonna get off the bullshit and on to the questions at some point?
AHO:     Sure. Apologies. Last time we talked you told us an anecdote about a lad named Longfellow - well readership has persisted in inquiring after him - do you have an update? Has he been back again?
Dickie:    They all come back again.
AHO:     And? Did you again turn him away or was this time different?
Dickie:    I let him in.
AHO:     Why? Why was this time different?
Dickie:    Look, I ain't nobody's mother. I did the kid a solid once and I figure that's once more than anybody can reasonably fucking expect. Capiche?
AHO:     Of course. You're a business man. First and foremost. So what happened?
Dickie:    The kid sat at the bar and drank the expensive shit. Neat. He wanted his whiskey neat.
AHO:     I trust he didn't create a commotion this time with a quill or something equally silly?
Dickie:    This is funny. Well, it wasn't so funny at the time but now looking back I guess it was. See, he kept fucking telling Louie, Neat, Neat, Neat, like Louie's hearing impaired or something. And now Louie's looking like he's gonna blow. Exasperated, I think would be the word.
AHO:     I believe so. Louie is the bartender and he is exasperated understanding the drink order?
Dickie:    Yeah. And it then moved to the Whats, a sure sign that Louie's gonna blow. What, do I look like a slob or something? What, you worried I'm gonna spill your whiskey? What the fuck, what you trying to say here with this neat bullshit? Louie, I say finally after the kid don't straighten Louie out on his own, he don't want no ice in his drink, that's what, you fucking moron. The kid was bright enough to give him a good tip and not look at him for awhile. Just drink and shut the fuck up.
AHO:     And was that the pinnacle of the boy's evening?
Dickie:    Pinnacle? You trying for a literary award or something here?
AHO:     In the many interviews I've conducted it seems that often the first details volunteered are the most memorable. What else happened?
Dickie:    Kid sat and drank and minded his business. He seemed to be thinking or wishing on someplace else.
AHO:     That's odd.
Dickie:    Odd? I would give you a good fucking crack if you were here in front of me.
AHO:     Why?
Dickie:    For being a stupid fuck, that's why.
AHO:     Please explain. If you would. For the readership.
Dickie:    This aint hard. They come to Dickie's to be someplace else, to be someone else. What's so odd about someone sitting at my bar wishing they didn't have to?
AHO:     I see your point. So the boy didn't partake in the ladies or the gambling?
Dickie:    I didn't say that. I said pretty much.
AHO:     Well, tell us the rest of it.
Dickie:    He got it all. Once he got a little whiskey in him and snapped the fuck out of it he got busy doing what you're supposed to do at Dickie's.
AHO:     Can you expand on that.
Dickie:    Nah. Let's not romanticize the boy's perversion. Some shit is better kept under wraps. Use your fucking imagination.



Saturday, January 11, 2014

stick men gone

I see some small amiss outside my window this morning. The automobiles seem to proceed, which implies purpose. Surely they move as they always move, excepting, of course, for when the Settings have been unnaturally adjusted, and it is just the observer who this morning sees differently. But I feel quite the same as yesterday. Both mornings I creaked out of the bed, complained about the ache felt, washed my face roughly with hot water and no soap, brewed exactly the same cup of coffee, fiddled about the kitchen whilst the coffee dripped, avoided my stretching and breathing exercises, felt equally guilty about this avoidance both days, and finally sat down with the coffee and the expectation that nothing outside my window would interest me enough to assign words. Perhaps the cemetery lot. I grow more and more fond of the cemetery lot. I always feel that if I stare long enough it will give me something.

But this morning I need not fixate on the green lot because it seems the traffic on Santa Rosa bustles. The automobiles gather in clusters at the various cross lights and then flow in bursts of acceleration, as if launched, like the starter's pistol has sounded and they have begun a race. Strangely they do not jostle. The cooperation of movement reminds of a dance team, well practiced and choreographed. Each member has an acceptable position and each has quite mastered it. The unison is compelling. Beautiful even. And now I will contradict this analogy as this dance seems more natural than described. Maybe the movements mimic a herd. Vibrant is the one word that sticks. Like the antelope then? I have only seen pictures. Splendid creatures. And outside my window are only machines. Powered by fumes and directed by the mostly absent and unaware. A grand silly notion then to assign such vibrancy to such ordinary landscape no matter how romantical one might feel.

Funny: the clock on my wall, between the windows and above the WALL STREET sign, is pounding this morning. I never notice whether it ticks or not. It is just there. And I like how it looks. But this morning the Pandora went off some time back, the one hour used up, and I did not notice the absence of music and I did not notice the silence and I did not until just now notice how loudly this clock does its work. Tick Tock, tick tock. Like a nursery rhyme.

There are other noises. Suddenly. I rarely hear anything in the morning but what I pipe in. Music mostly, sometimes chatter. Now someone hammers. It sounded at first as if someone knocks on my door. My pulse quickened. Who at this hour? And then the shifting grinding gears of a large oversized vehicle. Out of sight thankfully. Can I hear the traffic on the highway, the steady drone? I strain and am unsure whether I do or do not. I picture the sound and wonder if I merely create noise to fill the expectation? Have my ears become as uncertain as my eyes?

Frost said good fences make good neighbors. In my particular case good glass makes good fence. I need not explain all the advantages of keeping my windows closed. Sure, I could open a couple and be assured of hearing the whole world outside my window. What an idiotic notion. The sheer volume would make it indecipherable. Anyone with a beating heart would fail. And this before the odor that I won't bother to catalogue. This is an urban domicile. Sensory offenses abound.

Yet all things considered it is a lovely morning. The vehicles continue to surprise, to push on in concert. And I see human forms walk about the sidewalk. The sex and age indeterminate from this distance but this morning I find no stickmen. These are distinctly three dimensional forms and at this very minute I can see two of them connected, walking at a recognizable pace, a distinctly human pace, comfortably, hand in hand, a lover's gait. They walk away from my building so I see the backs of them, their outlines from the rear. They head west, towards tonight's sunset, towards a future I can't immediately fathom. Does this make me "in the present" or just unimaginative? As I watch them walk they cause me to feel feeble: it bothers me that I can't decipher him from her, whether they just begin, or are soon to end. It bothers me that I have no words to properly describe them, to offer them about themselves. It bothers me that they are out of my reach. And this last bothers me most: I can not steal from them what they must know, re-package it, display it, call it mine own. I will admit this much, and with a requisite amount of shame. But also I know that should this happy couple stop sauntering, pause for just a moment to turn their collective head to face in my direction, they would see their own reflection in my window and nothing more. They would not see me at all. And then they would likely complain about the distraction and the unpleasant glare from this morning's sun, now shining fully.

And so I keep the windows shut tight because I do not want to hear what the couple has to say. I know what they will say. And it will be base and uninteresting and likely offensive. I can do better. Except when I have nothing to say. And nothing to see. And when I will not listen. But that is not today. Even if today is the same as yesterday have I not just proven today is better? So when I get around to it I will give them a better conversation than the one they are having. Unless they now walk in silence, in which case I will give them a better silence. And I am happy to do this. But I must admit that while it feels good it also feel weighty. Like an obligation. A responsibility. A solemnity. How silly of me to feel these feelings, no? They will be gone from sight soon enough and then will be fully mine. Ownership transferred. It seems then, I fret for no good reason this morning. No good reason at all.