But those nights alone while the landlord sucked treatments from fluid bags into his veins, they became projections to live over and over. She was like an already dead soul, keen and trenchant in the quiet under an authentic moon. She entreated the afterlife for its embrace. Summum bonum by the Bete Noire.Read More
Jaime Bender had skipped third lunch to occupy the vacant unlocked junior high library and play with matches stolen from his parent’s kitchen sink drawer. The drawer held other niceties like unsharpened rusty exacto blades and a generous amount of dry uncapped superadhesives.
Jamie had succeeded in doing away with himself while hiding in the reading room. In attempting to extinguish his pant leg he managed to catch the breen 68-year-old shag carpet on fire. The ensuing conflagration consumed him in minutes, melted the sprinkler system in the space and moved on to the abundant shelves for more quick fuel before being contained and extinguished. This only after administering a hearty singe to Mrs. Montyues' adjacent mathematics classroom.
Jamie was eleven and so far as intelligent as any pre-pubescent cage of ripening dysfunction. Survival of the fittest got the best of him that day, giving him up for statistics. We had good memories of Jamie, who despite being a minor agent of destruction was namely the best foosball player on Union Street. Had he possessed any further talent surely foosball would have gotten him through college on a gambling scholarship and adored by fraternity-going young males the campus over.
I was three years older than Jaime then. At the funeral a week and a day after shuffling out the back door of Mr. Hodge’s Physics II lab, RachelAnne James to the rear of me whining about how the January air was going to freeze the freshly applied gel in her bangs (and thinking after a second hair gel is supposed to freeze up anyway) while pushing my arms through the sleeves of my black wooly dinner jacket- then meeting the huge crowd of students, each in a yet unmingled class set, distracted by the barely visible though black-as-death puffy clouds of smoke from the center ventilation system in the roof. After all that and school being cancelled for the rest of the week to make repairs, we anticipated what mourning was going to look like.
We found ourselves mourning Jamie because we had to. It's what you did. The whole thing just felt like a disjointed block party. We paused for prayer. We processed around Jamies’ brass urn. We marveled at all the flowers that kept rolling in amidst the service; huge bouquets of lilies and carnations and organza with babies breath and red red red roses. Roses that defined red anew and gave pink a reason to be ashamed of itself. I mingled with those I knew and pretended to be happy to meet people to whom I was introduced.
Jamie’s parents just looked used up. Like they could both use a nap – a three-day long nap. Watching them I was starting to feel melted, it was hot in here, and as desperately ordinary as the table I stood beside; all antique lamp and antique box of Kleenex. Then she walked past me and stopped at my side without anything. Just stopped – didn’t look up – didn’t speak. I glanced at her and kept my hands in my pockets like this was all supposed to happen. She picked up her hand and tugged on my sleeve. Though I felt calm watching her my heart advanced. We were in some chess game and she was a rook reminding me that I was in check.
This was Jenene Bender. "Weird Jenene." Jamie’s sister in the grade below me. She materialized, a soft phantom at 5' 1”. What could I do but follow her like a mesmerized cobra ascending into the weaving dance that accompanies the captivating Indian clarinet pipe song this girl sang without a word. Her hand found mine and we migrated through the pixilated moving targets of people in this very strange arcade shooting range of sorrow.
The street was cut-up shadowy dark like a parking lot. We were the only ones on it. I should have given her my coat – the way she was doubled over in that chocolate turtleneck sweater made my shoulders ache – but I was too warm to notice. Comfort tends to make one apathetic. She walked fast and I got warmer by keeping up. We ducked into a suspect lacuna between row houses and she produced a marijuana cigarette and a silver lighter the size of my pinky with a star stamped into it. Another antique that caught an even flint of light in our current wave of crisp darkness. Even the smoke made her compact face radiate. When she finally did look up at me and into my eyes on the inhale I couldn’t see her pupils but on that exhale I could feel them dilate. Another chapter in the book of life that belongs to me now written and consecrated, for everyone measures a bit of time by when and where they first encountered a controlled substance.
Her hand with the joint attached came out of the dark and halted inches from my chin.
“Just, enjoy this with me. I think it's the only thing that'll help me cry.” Her first sentence directed at me and already the relationship was one sided and manipulative. I took it from her – jutting my hand out from the jacket sleeve applying thumb and index beside hers on the soft crinkling paper.
She breathed out a cloud and gulped in the frosted air like she was desperate to choke and drown. I inhaled shallowly, pretending to do it deeply – even tilted my head back to try to reaffirm this, but when I came forward and coughed she giggled, which relieved me. The fool could now relax. She was suddenly the last person I wanted to fake it around.
It was hard to understand just what Jenene understood in the way that she understood it. When she started in about Jamie she had so much to say but couldn’t get it out. Every time she had gone to explain a feeling or perception in her own way, someone had tried to contradict her, or just didn’t agree, and didn’t let her finish her thought. She felt this way generally and had developed a bitter set of tendencies from it. She stopped listening, stopped talking, stopped wanting to explain. She did say she hoped this wake could help her parents out because they didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves.
Jenene and Jaime weren’t neglected necessarily, they were just two latchkey kids in a poor suburban wild getting by on bread and water. Some days finding lunch money on the floor of the bus. Jenene was crazy for a sexual outlet. Jamie was a hidden madman. He had some social skills and managed to have friends, but what burned inside him was an undeniable insidious death wish. When Jenene’s class was first evacuated, she knew she couldn’t tell anyone that it was her brother because then they would have just figured the whole thing was planned and wouldn’t have listened, and that made her miserable. With helpless fear painted on her face she processed amidst indignant classmates out into the cold. When everyone was distracted by the smoke, she darted into the side of the building. She tried to figure out why she was seized with the knowledge that it was in fact Jamie. Why didn’t she stop him when she saw him take the matches? Maybe in some sadistic moment she imagined the alleviation of responsibility toward her brother when she fathomed an accident which might prove fatal. Like a bomb in an abandoned bookbag, she slumped down behind the school’s long brick walled gymnasium and exploded in a fury of tears.
But she wasn’t crying now. The frosted air took up the smoke and her exhale and gave them both ethereal, temporary bodies. In between the houses kitchen lamps and television glow came across and made surreal patterns on both of us. Made the bracelets on her wrist throw a prism onto my jacket canvas. I took the cigarette from her again, feeling woozy on the 3rd pass.
I think about her voice and how it has given me all this new information. This girl who’s only told one story to me, yet who I anticipate will tell me many more. She will leave this place only to me and memory. Where we stood together there will remain shadows and thin lights and cold air.
Under the sudden circumstances I felt compelled to follow hope for her. She’s charmed me, of course, the fucked-up jewel I can salvage from the rough. Learn how to polish to the kind of luster I don’t understand but want to share with her. For no other reason than to be a receptacle for her passion I was there- glad to be chosen. I offered to walk her home that night, but she declined.
We go back to school and it’s not a new place. We think it will be because it's somehow supposed to be. The library was brand new- a lesser amount of books on a larger amount of shelving. There is a reading room dedicated to Jamie, but I haven’t seen it. I hear it doesn’t have any carpet. Jenene and I confer on these things and more like we’ve been friends hanging out at her locker after fourth period for the whole year long. I put my arm around her and she lets me as we cross the courtyard to the second building. She lets me walk her home then, after that first day back with the looks and the knowing and the renewed need to feel safe. She makes a sandwich for me like she did for Jamie most days after school. Turkey and provolone and lettuce on toast with honey and butter. Turns out her parents keep more food in the house now. She says “I know this is selfish, but it has to be done. I haven’t done much of it.” She proceeds to break down with the kind of tears that spring from living in relief of yourself.
Back into living with nobody to care for- a friend, a reason, a motivation lost. That's an intimidating void to fill for anyone, but I didn’t indulge her. I let her cry and I kissed her forehead goodbye as she moved past me to sleep it off. I closed the back door on the way out knowing she’s the kind of girl who wakes up; she’ll rise with renewed purpose and determination and I’ll see her tomorrow.
It'll be her turn to walk me home some day next week, when not estranged from herself. She'll be laughing at my dumb jokes, dressed in bright colors and drinking root beer while we play some foosball. We'll both be remembering, in this life we are all still learning to assemble, that she is not alone.
I started taking pictures of a page or two of books I read and enjoyed, but didn't care to keep. Just to have a little something to remember them by...Read More
Once in the not-too-distant past, and again in the not-too-far-flung future, a woman lived in a small house high on a hill in a quiet neighborhood of a small city.
She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t old, and her favorite room in her house was the kitchen. Not because she loved to cook, but because of the light. There was a table in the kitchen and a large lamp that hung close hovered over it from the ceiling. And this lamplight was very warm and pleasing in the nighttime. But the best light came from the daytime in thru the tall picture window beside the table.
It was the light and the view the woman enjoyed so thourally.
From her high house, perfect as a locket with its handful of modest rooms, she sat at her kitchen table, at her window, and gazed out onto the tall hills and the dazzling treeline that sloped lushly across them, leaving a beautiful series of gaps here and there thru which could be seen the pearlescent sparkle of the moving river below, and the pale blue arch of the long steel bridge and its pillars which crossed it.
The unmoving bridge. A fixed point: straddling the river unflaggingly thru all the seasons and their magnificent advances and retreats of color. At dusk, when the light grew weary, the bridge resumed its own glow. City travelers shuffled over and across it in a thankless dance of one or the other direction.
From the window, the woman could close one eye and hold the bridge in her hand, or pinch it between her fingers. The slow black waters beneath it glimmered the bridge’s glow back at itself, and the trees kept their green secrets in to rest.
The days, and the nights, and the woman and the window.
The house and the hillside. The bridge and the river.
The city and the woodlands all. All together in a harmony that had room for itself and its reflection in every way. The reality, and the dream.
For a total amount you talk
Unless violence swings on complete
Cock, we had better measure
Kiss with an element which exceeds
Morons deer games won piled
And cross over the wild and
Random expanses fresh or maybe
Rebellious yes rebelling while
Yardsticks are used to collect
Kef and major edges measured by
Individual drunken magnitudes
Lightheartedness while coating precious
Lists of everything blasphemed.
When I was working in Kentucky at a girl scout camp, toward mid-summer I went out with some other counselor ladies to TN.
We stayed at hotels in Memphis and Nashville and it was a long wild weekend, but toward the beginning one night in the middle of our drive we stopped at one of the counselors' parents houses.
It was a hot and beautiful night full of stars and mischief.
The counselors were younger than I and impressionable. Over the course of the drive, I had borrowed both of their cell-phones to make prank calls.
I even dialed a number close to my own and an exceedingly nasty woman answered. I called again and she was dumb enough to answer a second time.
While they were indoors, I sat on the curb outside dialed and dialed, leaving spastic patois and jive accents in my wake. Unrecognizable to the perturbed answerer.
One woman challenged me, tho'. As I stared up into the the southern spark-strewn black she talked and I talked and the lonely in her found a story in me. The exchange was warm and kind.
Fathomable and full of small truths, the kind a palm-reader tells you.
I stopped calling after her. I think I got what I wanted or needed, after that.
The next day the counselor's phones rang and rang with people calling back out of curiosity and confusion.
206 East Seventh Avenue. New York City, 1953.
Finally Billy Burroughs is topping Allen Ginsberg in his apartment living room somewhere between the roll-up couch and the orientally shagged floor and it's a moment the latter has been jerking it to for some time.
He is determined to be Bud's best lay (nobody calls Billy "Bud" but Allen, who gets away with the pet name probably because it's only used privately indoors), and maybe earn a scraped knee or two trying, cranking his soaking ass right up there to the hilt. Al's come twice but nothing much ever leaks out of his little brown jewcock and pecan balls anyway, so he keeps powering down until about twenty seconds from now when Bud busts and hunches fast over Al like he's captured kill.
Al has taken so many mental pictures as this "tea-n-tea'' real-life afternoon unfolds, his sweaty hair-pulled scalp is tingling in heady waves. Bud makes noises Al's never heard anyone else make ever while he nuts and he's stealing them also for potential later use. Al is only nervous about one thing and that's having more body hair than Bud, but Bud gives zilch for fucks about all that and knows Al was angling for his prick for awhile and Al doesn't really know that Bud is currently taking out his frustrations over someone else who is somewhere else out on him.
It's just sex and it's good. No one is falling in love here.
He pulls out. They arrange themselves and collapse. The room is musty with fornication and the muted chaos of it leaves Al grinning deliciously. Bud smells like stale cigarettes and the last glimmers of a once-bright aftershave wafting from the heat of him. Al watches Bud's thick dick soften and sink. He concentrates on this and mentally connects it with his asshole and the raw bliss of the worked-over feeling he's earned there.
After another moment, Al goes for the cigarettes. He'd been admiring Bud's breathing. Flat on his back, chest rising and falling with the small rouge nipples spread wide over the white barrel. Mouth open and near sleep in the 3pm light. Al fidgets anyway- a default setting from feeling so perpetually freaky-deakey all the time- but is afraid now Bud will catch him watching.
He does his best to be quiet and careful. Strikes the match and gets on with the next phase of afterglow.
Back around this time in ye olde 2012, I read "Tarantula" by Mr. Bob Dylan. I took one word from each page, then manifested it into a poem, "Ratultana." I really dug his line "adore every full feel."
From the heated memories of seven Augusts not so easy to recant, the holy water holocaust of derivative homage and other mainly perfect disasters local to root, take view.
They are Romeo in view of Hogart's line. The teeming evidence of beauty double'd back. S-curve walks wit into itself.
A deaf circuit handled the beat science of feathers falling away from my hair. The angel. Undoing grace.
Kicks in the tango of finding out. Awake and aware in romantic wrongs of a telling situation what scour and scrape and interrupt the sensual meantime.
All charity stained trick swoons oration to the warm grave.
His collar gone, preachers turned pushers commiserate. In today's deep surgery of hours it can all be done. Extrana can be found yawning or faking like a taxidermic princess determined to grandstand the atomic dollar of drunk love.
Priestless- adore every feel between rebel and shirt.
She can guess at permanent moon men heroic as the conquering radio.
On the balcony, her freak pleasure singing, sprouting three invented answers for twenty knobs of law. Herself bow coo-coo to cowards persuasion.
Lo- a nightlong ale where the fence ambles dead. Salvation brags crash is the sounds of doctors talking.
Extremely arrested rudeness. Courage without ambassador grows irreligious about forced weeks of mustaches and nose job. Really.
Daredevils hope a screwy jingle will drum up considerately enthused apprentice discoveries holding to leftover or missing unenchanted postcards.
Heyboy boy- Blam. Carrier of saddle. Volcano ship signs dangerous! Paleface- a melancholy tape.
A carved elephant ring is a bond for hands. What measures weddings, punches hoods, votes, autographs chauffeurs, does not hibernate like oranges. Typical up-street clarity.
Lotza blackheaded shelling to be done in the carved response from a new god.
Let's aim our beauty close to the heat of memory. Of memories.
I found out this summer that this is a form in which I hate writing. It's meant to build lyrics, and serves to be a good exercise, but I'm getting to the point where it makes more sense to just build my own dang form. Back to the dreaming board...<3
Tonight's victims of paperboard intrigue
In tomorrow’s daylight wish to admonish
that starry glare of hours past midnight
where fools not forced to change
leaked their accidents of wit
like a thawed a strain of agency.
This town laid of no agency
traded it’s daylight for jesus intrigue
a treasure sure to admonish
those gentle amputations of midnight
boiled toward change
but not wit.
When solitary soul’s wit
aboard a tour of agency
opens an intrigue
only to admonish
all who lease on midnight
risks unwelcome change.
Yet so far change
caps that fat stack of wit
with a marching agency
what rebellion’s admonish
in the creased midnight.
A poor soldier is midnight
for whom change
is sin, is art, is wit
zero sum agency
on a high game to admonish.
Suffer those procedures admonish
they scour no change
nor rib of wit
carving free the agency
from simple paperboard intrigue.
Ah, too easily change and intrigue
rub the wit of midnight
solely to admonish the false cascade of agency.
I had the extraordinary luck to grace the stage and read the following at the massive Park West on Armitage Avenue for the Chicago Humanities Fest a few years back. The program was called "The Year In Review: 1990." featuring 12 storytellers, one for each month. Irving Welsh did December.
-- And here we are... birthed timid but wise from the decadent beakhead of the 1980s ala Werewolves-of-wall-street and Reganite-o-tronics. Finally we've truly entered "the last great decade" for connecting our optimisms. And like most of the time before and since, much of the coolest history in America is being made right here, in that fated year of the Metal Horse, not a leap year, rolling in cold and furious with its Valentine's Day snowstorm, onto the banks of Lake Michigan, into the bowels of glory that are the smelly onion...
In this shortest and finest of months, yours truly has just entered double digits! That's right, as of February 19th, 1990, I am the big 1-0! And I won't live to set foot in Chicago, Illinois, until another 18 of these long years of youth have passed. And with them, the enforced piano lessons, and chorus. Then the guitar bug, and insomniac communions with six strings on a no-name knock-off model and a mini-amplifier by Gorilla. The modest dual tape deck/boombox used to record concerts on the radio and make killer mixes. And the crummy kit with the broken cymbal, and years of drums in the high school marching band. A first CD player is in there somewhere. Along with weekend trips to the record store in the local mall, even if I couldn't afford a thing.
But thru it all, ugly but proud- a fixture of the living room- the 2-speed belt-driven Sanyo turntable attached to stereo cabinets, or a headphone set. All thru which in that frozen season, I listened to Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time, what showed me a promising future in the past eras of the dusty sides of my parents' vinyl collection, stacked nearly as tall as I was then, and taller if you threw in their double spindles of 45s.
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say my musical tastes and interests manifested in-kind on the pre-pubescent diet of boy-bands and rap and pop. Holding steady at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for my birthday week is Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract." Bought with my own cold hard b-day cash is the exciting acquisition on cassette of LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out' album. And one never ever forgets the timeless and ubiquitous Mr. Michael Jackson, even tho' it is Janet (Miss Jackson, if you're nasty) who is also currently on the charts trailing not too far behind Paula with "Escapade."
But my airwaves were about to be taken over in a big way by the offerings of the occult gods behind '120 Minutes' now in its 5th year on MTV. With guests and luminary hosts like Iggy Pop, Robert Smith, Debbie Harry and Joey Ramone- it turns out staying up yawning way past my bedtime really meant I was begging to be fed something of cultural significance in the form of the music video. Still more mixes are made of those too, thanks to a sturdy VHS recorder...
And back on those equally snow-dusted farm hills of Pennsylvania, tucked away in a second story bedroom still so far-far-far away from the low-lit haunts of the Metro, The Vic and Lounge Ax, I begin to use these tools to work the edges of my life into a personality. Chicago is a big-city place so removed from my consciousness it might as well be the moon- a moon now hovering close as a new idea thanks also to coveted issues of Alternative Press and SPIN magazines, who show my own true face back to me in the form of quite a few folks you can't forget, namely The Smashing Pumpkins and Veruca Salt. Two Chicago-born outfits that are still making music, who helped to show me what it was to collaborate and risk and be a part of it all. To take the next best step, as if into a breathless dream, and be in a rock band.
The point is, and I'm not alone on this either- music is responsible for my being here. Together we boast a strapping legacy. These urgent dead-of-winter gifts of rock and roll carry me and many others as best they can thru the darkest icy-wasteland hour and back into the light: they know us. They love us. They helped us grow up.
So, whatever music you're listening to- keep on listening. Because it is almost spring, and the sound it makes cannot be ignored.
...the band that I've been in for nearly a year plays their first gig. Our first gig. Crazy, I know. Too long to wait for such a thing to come to fruition. Humans are baked and born in less time. But music is, however, more than human. Even if, perhaps especially if, it is punk rock music. So much is riding on it these days, punk rock. The vitality and exuberant necessity of its direct-action option becomes more and more relevant as capitalism and social conservatism rot basic infrastructures and poison consensus.
Not sure yet what we'll do with our "manifesto." But if sharing it here means YOU, whomever you are, feel included, desired, remembered and empowered by what punk is and can do, then you are the reason. You are the RESULT...
WE ARE ALL RESULTS
RESULTS OF BOREDOM
OF SETTLING FOR SOMETHING NOT WHOLLY DESIRED
THE RESULTS OF WHICH BECOME MORE RESULTS
WITHIN THESE CONSTRUCTS
A BIZARRE FREEDOM EXISTS
WHICH DICTATES SPACE
THIS SPACE BEING THE RAW FOUNDATION
OF CHANGE AND DEAR CHAOS
NEVER FORGET THIS SPACE
IN IT IS A POWER
IT IS THE TRUTH OF YOU
YOU ARE IN IT RIGHT NOW
AND IT IS YOURS
WE ARE YOURS
WE ARE RESULTS
A cousin of mine got married recently. I knew I wanted to write something for them, so I did. It's just one basic thing I can do to contribute. It marks the 2nd wedding I've been to this summer. I kind of teared-up at both ceremonies, and Don mentioned "they really affected you," and I wasn't sure how to take that statement. The bride at the first wedding started crying when vows were read to her, so I started with tears in kind. And Eli Rinzler and Ana Bennett's wedding was just so gorgeous it was hard to keep a dry eye. My brother, a groomsman, felt the same way.
But it was not for beauty and empathy that I cried, but for both and more... These are the first weddings I have been to as a married person myself. In awe of, and now truly aware of, the magnificence and splendor that a real and honest match can bring to the world.
"TO regale you quickly with a personal most-embarassing-moment, caught on VHS tape well-over 25 years ago…
The Jerman/Liggett/Rinzler extended family were together in Ontario, Canada for our ongoing annual early-August vacation. This particular year, Grandma and Grandpa Liggett were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
This was a big deal, and a well-kept surprise, due to much hard work and preparation. All my relatives were speaking in-turn and, being especially young and eager, I was caught up in the moment and wanted to contribute.
I had no idea what I might say. Everyone was witty and had prepared remarks. I figured out later how to do this sort of thing as you can probably tell, but after listening to all the familiar voices I’d come to know and appreciate, and being surrounded by so much love… by the time I got up to speak I said two words and simply burst into tears.
My mother then gratefully escorted me from the room.
Here today I’ll try to refrain from offering her the task of repeating history…
To Ana and To Eli-
The pair of you are already so brave for having a fantastic wedding party beyond just an elegant and warm ceremony. You have made it seem effortless, and flawless, and I thank you with deep gratitude.
I say this as someone for whom getting hitched in the desert city of Las Vegas Nevada after only 3 months of engagement couldn’t have been more perfect…
I guess really what I mean to say is- celebration comes naturally when the party is pretty large. But the less exclusive it becomes, the more it risks spinning out from the center. It takes the power of individuals to stay its focus… In other words, each of us share different reasons for why we’re all here for the same reason.
Acts of bravery beyond these herculean tasks involved in throwing a wedding are naturally in the long game of maintaining the marriage itself.
I quote my husband here: “The wedding is for everyone else, and for now. The marriage is for you, and for after.”
So it is for this reason, that of the greatest family traditions we can possibly foster, the single best is the act of Marrying for Love. And if we’re very lucky, for Life.
A magnificent hope that so many in this room share for you: that 50 years from now you both will be seated again at the head of a table. Your golden anniversary being celebrated with you, for you, and all around you. Including friends and family yet to be. With laughter and stories, and sincere and beautiful tears.
You two came and visited me in Chicago nearly 5 years ago. The windy city I live in and love was a stop-along on a pretty epic road trip for the pair of you. We went to Rivers Casino in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside the city limits.
It was for all of us an inaugural visit, but Ana unwittingly came to indulge in her first-ever foray into buffet-style eating. This girl was in her 20’s and had never been to a buffet before?! So she claims! When she told Eli and I this, our eyes just about bugged out of our heads, we couldn’t believe it.
A great many of you present share such exclusive moments with this enchanting and very busy couple. Times that seem so alive and vivid no matter how brief, or how simple.
Remember them, and lift your glasses for them-
Here’s to making more of those times today.
With the familiar young faces from my brownie troop, I went into my very first old-folks-home. Thru a maze of hallways, I walked into a room and placed the succulent I'd been given onto a long tray, and looked into the face of a woman I had no idea how to talk to. She was much older than even my own grandparents were at the time.
I left. I was pushed back in. I don't remember what we talked about from there. Only the blue light on her face from the single window, and afterward, the feeling as if something had just transpired for which yet I had no understanding.
Mother enters my room. I hear her coming up the steps to reprimand me for something. It's always something. I stand and wait for it. Incense is burning. She thinks I'm smoking pot. She tells my father this so they can gang up on me. Again.
Doing homework when my friends come to the door on a night when I didn't expect them. I grabbed my guitar and we headed for the tracks. We went deep into the pitch black tunnels and followed our echoes back out to the brisk air at the town limits. Kicking at gravel and beer cans and singing songs we'd just made up, and would never sing again.
It was getting late. We were teenagers. We got back to his parents house before they did.
We were on the couch. The only light came from the hallway. In the fever of the night I was desperate to take off my shirt. Desperate to feel his skin against mine. I did. We did.
We stood in the parking garage's open lot a story up along the highway. The rush of cars against the tall buildings and all their lights. For a moment it was just the cold, and our city, and us.
He left. We were friends for a while in college. Just pals. We'd chat over cigarettes and TV. But when, at the end of the semester, I watched him walk down the dorm hallway and out of the south doors I knew I'd never see him again. And I didn't.
Then, deep into my twentieth summer and far away from home, I crept down to the lakefront. Naked, under the sleepaway camp stars, I got into a boat, and paddled silently to the middle of the water, where I stopped to watch the grasp of the arm of the galaxy.
One day, a long time after all this, I got on the train in the city, and suddenly as I looked around me, everyone seemed like a real-life rock star. I'm telling you. Hendrix and PJ Harvey. Nina Simone and some crusty Mick Jagger-type cat. I guess I wondered then who I was supposed to be.
Last night the songs in the bar downstairs are antique and romantic. The DJ says last call. Everything is louder in the quiet after I've climbed out of your car and back up into my apartment.
I lay beside a drafty window watching light snow and listen to the street, and my stomach aches for more than one reason. I am not drunk at all, but can't close my eyes for long. I prepare my mind for an extended dream session featuring our bodies burning apart. Ripped by fusion.
Among days prior I have called your name aloud while masturbating, then come hard and fast.
I have flirted with you effortlessly in afternoon daydreams. Bittersweet things that can never happen. Not really.
Any follow thru on this throb discloses a fallout that would crumble the better half of my heart.
A stupid crush. I have a brainless crush on you...
I realized the other day while on the train inside a long stretch of subway tunnel, I was meditating.
My closed eyes focused on the slow churning sound of the wheels and tracks together. I felt my body go away, and just the sound and its persistence remained. It helps that there was some quiet. There weren’t a bunch of other people-centered background noise going on… but the point is, up until then, I’d thought about using transit as a meditative space, but I didn't think I could do it. That nearly all busses and trains- over-crowded, smelly, too hot or too cold and in-motion- would be just too much. For the most part, they are. Until they weren’t. Until they were perfect. Another thing to add to the list of things I'm glad I'm wrong about.
And when I came to- I had a little something extra. Something new about the world-
The whole magnificent world outside of bad moments.
It doesn’t matter if that old HE- a lover who became my enemy- has never physically been to my new home. I’ve psychically invited him there, damn near a hundred thousand times now, via my own dark thoughts.
Memories are something to be feared. If the devil exists it is in one form only: Fear.
My family went to church when I was small, but we weren’t religious, and I’m extremely thankful for that. In a nearly flippant way, when asked about my beliefs I refer to myself as an Agnostic Pantheist. This is in part deflection and in part a truth. These thoughts are like multiple minute gods- some acting in the name of good and some for evil. For me they exist and they poke, but they do not make up the sum total of my reality. That reality is changing. Is the constance of change. The lessons are old and new.
These ‘bad’ thoughts- replays of a seemingly endless series of events gone wrong and time wasted remade worse in the afterthoughts… they can melt away. They have to. They can become the tiny grains of sand they truly are amid the realization that the whole world was turning too, and still is. And back in each of those moments- someone died, and another someone was born, and someone else with a truer heart maybe had it worse.
How can I radiate love if I am periodically filled with so much disgust and frustration?
Can I turn this fierceness into positive coping and a force for righteous fearlessness? I must, or I die.
Make no mistake. So much of what we call ‘living’ is a total trap. My heart is shattered like a funhouse mirror and as flimsy a bi-polar’s rationale for not killing herself today.
Yet despite knowing this, a voice straight out of my jagged heart, as sure as a self-defense class says ‘YES.’ And it will take a renewed commitment to the practice of healing every single day. We are flowers opening and closing to the sun.
This is how you deal with the many forms of loss.
You go about your day. You do simple things. You do your best, which is a different kind of best every day.
You give yourself permission.
You close your eyes and breathe. You look at up the sky and remember the wide blue ceiling is there. Holding you careful and true, along with everything you love.
If you are careful you can view with objectivity these inner twists of fate: you can see those closest to you lead their beautiful lives thourally and independantly all on their own.
But zoom out even further. Go around the world. Remember that someone else was having an even worse day than you- how your heart is made bigger as it goes out to them. Whomever and wherever they are- these friends you haven’t met yet. These lovely souls you will never know. Some close. Some far.
Someone died. Someone was born.
The world spun on. And time pulled you thru. As it pulls us all, and keeps us.
Exercise in Standpoint Theory-
I can't wait to go to bed with you.
Sword at my side.
On a holy day, all smoke is mine.
You keep the mirrors, but please share the wine.
What blue sky there is, I'll take too.
Then I'll love you.
Stupid questions come with a cover charge.
Coffee on a night just now revealing planets.
Too bad- screams come with a burn in the moment.
The masters are named for these truths- you know why.
We are stones near the sea,
And ever shall be.
Too Clever By Half-
By Hell and everywhere within
any redemptions made impossible
from the ingestion of too much
The dove turned snake in the urn.
Residue accumulated along this path
has put out the light. Has blinded
and accelerated decay.
The fawn turned rat in the urn.
Turned- wild and woolly, this
urn, once girl.
Augmented and heightened
a woe chronicle
Low, dry as a draft.
Turning the sun brown.
No mist across the stale map-
A log of empty caresses
itself too clever by half.
By Hell and everywhere within
residue accumulated along this path
turned wild and woolly- this low
dry as a draft.
An urn too clever by half.
‘Flaming Creatures’ - (after the film of the same name)
…Where forked associations hoo
into smolder-and-charred tonights
which beg to lack all else.
Colossal bouquets have perished
in the fevered lava’s flame
tumbling sanguine in the barking trance.
Awake after the orgy
and shed of loneliness
the tongue, renewed in its gravity
is slack, and on its own relieves nothing.
Night hums its last.
The intellect is pulled back in.
Called to pause and rest from its heights.
Time scours itself for new music
so the dance may resume.
No costume change required
while the lamp weaves high over flower-piled heads.
No rinsing this ripeness.
It is not used up.
It is getting used to itself.
New mates continue, of course.
Jostled and recorded by divine memory.
Its great body collecting light
in a furious mix of ray and direction.
There is no denying now the spinning.
The system’s willingness to hallucinate.
Look here- at that same point in the curve…
(repeat from beginning)
Hard to believe its been 3 years since I visited you in Sao Paolo. So much has happened...
I rediscovered my diary from that time and enjoyed noticing a few things I didn't tell you about before:
All is well here. It's hot. Hottest summer in Sao Paolo ever. since they started measuring around 1950. Every time I get too warm I think about how I have to go back eventually to a frozen urban wasteland. The clouds gather in fluffy hard shapes over the afternoon. It will most likely rain a little every day. I camp the sun in one of the smoking sections of GRU (airport). This air and climate has thinned my blood. But making love in the cold when I return will thicken it up again appropriately. I still haven't checked the weather. A little longer to go with out being online. I walk down the far side of Augusta, past Consolacao, ducking into the shade and trying to connect to wifi with my stubborn telephone. To enjoy the sun, por favor!
Cucharachas the size of my stubby pinky finger amble drunkenly along sideways until they get crushed. They are big and few enough to deserve names, if I cared to name them. From the smallest to the most massive: Banyan-like trees with complex root structures and trunks sprout ridiculous and arching and beautiful. Along my walk I recall again the upcoming anniversary: Sao Paulo will be 460 anos this week. Any cause for celebration- Paulistanos are enjoying the full swing of summer. As I watch the news (JN and SP on Globo- gshow.com.br) this place becomes more and more interesting to me. From the 'ooo' and 'uh-oh' deep lip-puckered sounds of portuguese, to the fact that there is a whole lot that's about to happen here- Carnivale in a month. The world cup this summer and 2016 games in Rio. There is a buzz in the air. I think randomly of the foreign language instructors I had in college. 2 were decent and the others sucked horribly (Spanish and Italian.) But none of them every really tell you that to best learn a language, you must fly, nee flee, to the place that beckons you bend your tongue. For one thing, they seem to pronounce certain 'd's like 'j' and 't's like 'g's. I start reading "Tropic of Capricorn" and catch "nausea." I know I will be thinking about this place and missing it for a long time after I return home. Home- the cold, hard-as-rock working place. A place of no street vendors and strict rules of jackets and drama and too much drinking. I sigh. Something in me has cracked open and see it for the sad place it is- my own sad place in it.
Besides the heat the thing that makes this a real paradise for me, and easy on the eyes, is all the race mixing and the true melting-pot confluence of color. The guide book says it better than I can. I am happy to have the metric (converting F to C) practice, and one more week of summer- bought and paid for. The longer I stay in this place, the more comfortably surreal it becomes. A kid who looks like Jim Morrisson passes wearing a Jim Morrisson t-shirt. The air is powdered with the occasional delightful waft of pot smoke, and I meander in a grocery store, buying snacks and gifts and simply enjoying the foreignness of everything. Little adventures yield big results. Especially as hours are long and this place, despite its size, is highly walkable. I see some dudes holding hands here. And some fine dykey ladieez. It's all good. Everybody seems to get tatted up for any reason imaginable. So many kids with tattoos. I feel as if I almost fit in a little better since I have two mid-size visible ones. 'Leger & Franco & Leavitt & Gosling.' A girl walks by wearing this slogan on a cutoff T. The handsome faces pop into my mind- does she know? Or is she another of those increasing many who have Ramones t-shirts stuffed somewhere in their drawers?
I meet another photographer with whom I got in touch before arriving: Carol. I'm sorry you two didn't get to meet one another, but you both still have profiles on the same photography site. She is a gem and Chicago would love her. She'll be in the states by March for awhile, and maybe she'll never leave! I laughed when one of the first things out of her mouth was 'I hate Brasil'. She was so hot, flushed in the cheeks, from the midday walk to my hotel, bless her heart. She's dressed in PJs, two different tops and bottoms that clash, and has dorky glasses frames and one stretched earlobe and clearly doesnt give a fuk, and yet gives many fux about the right things. Her english is much better than she gives herself credit for, and our chat about music is refreshing. Turns out she's a huuuuuge Elvis fan!
I pull a ground score on a pack of Marlboros. I think I will have one now, and read some poetry. Flattered, even by a street solicitor, to be mistaken for a resident. I'm just an open person to talk to, really. "Night Power"- the stacks of an energy drink with an intense name in a convenience shop make me laugh. This along with a few storefronts leave me in stitches. Namely 'Thuty Shoes' and 'Qualy Copy.' Almost got lost coming off of Praca de Se, down into Liberdad this afternoon. But with a little hearty map reading I managed to make it past the ghetto while walking along a patch of highway only to run smack into lower Augusta again. Whew. In Praca Agua Branca, I drink from a coconut and listen to all the ruckus the cocks are making- calling forth and back thru the lattice and trellis. PEEP! PEEEEP! Bitchy Sparrows in Ibirapuera Park bicker a welcome on a Sunday. Naturally, the place is packed and I pop a squat in the shade and hydrate and take it all in for a moment. The music, the sculpture, the lagoon fountain with its angular dances. On the way here there are street performers at stoplights on Aveneda Brasil. Also, a man selling flowers. Brazilians are just trying to improve their station like everyone else in the world. They try hard and smile while doing it. And they love American music. "Knocking on heaven's door" sung at top volume with 2 saxophonists and one classical guitarist outside of my hotel lobby. Yet another lovely Sunday morning rendition around 4am by drunken youth as Rua Augusta stays hopping until the faintest blue, selling single cans of beer and thrashing the streets. Some choosing to pick a fight until the subway opens. And remarkably, for how much litter was present, the streets at Sunday noon are remarkably free of debris.
Fruit Shake Uva- a grape soft serve smoothie to balance me out. I was shaking from low blood sugar. Back in Parque Trinanon to cool off for a moment in the minor jungle. When I go in after the park (both art museums there are closed, as well as the Japanese pavillion- not however a total loss) I find the roof in the hotel lobby is leaking. Dripping blatantly onto a wide rug- darkening it. The next day the rug is gone and a bucket is out. I keep discarding magazines on the coffee table and there they sit- as dutiful an entertainment as Brazilian TV. The one channel I get is chock full of news and soap operas.
Gus and I shoot some pics on the abandoned 11th floor (rooftop/solarium) lounge with 2 saunas and a gym area. This poor hotel. What it was in its heyday I'll never know, Tho' it was good to take advantage of the last overcast light, and provided it stays open, we'll go up there again. I recall Gus saying "I want to win the lottery." It made me laugh. He is like most who want to win but don't want to play. The next afternoon rain sets in- another good thunderstorm. We work on the roof for a second time and Gus uses some lights and leaves the shutter open for a surreal effect- this after breaking his external flash! Not irreparably, tho'. He'll take it to the shop tomorrow. He's off to night work after we stuff our faces at an indian place where I have a mango lassi for the 1x in a thousand years, and he may be up early enough to call before I take off from the hotel for my standard walking adventure. Reading Vanity Fair over breakfast and observing again how Hotel Pan Americano is straight out of the 70s and falling the fuck apart. Loose toilets, poor A/C, grimy walls, a biology experiment for a pool (open and closed in what seems to be a haphazard way but I make good use of it.), shitty telephone, and now the internet switch seems to be a genuine bust. It could be annoying, but mostly it's endearing. My walk down Augusta to Feria Lima and back keeps me out in a hint of greasy rain, and is only as productive as it takes me past a beautiful eastern orthodox cathedral and a minor sculpture park. I can find an excuse to take a walk to any corner of this place at any time. A ferocious thunderstorm seizes town just as I seek early dinner in the shopping mall 2 streets over, and I wander the awesome bookstore, watching the deluge pass from high windows. Sure enough later it's on the news: a bus overturned in the flooding. More traffic, more weather. It'll all happen again tomorrow. On a random afternoon later on, Gus discusses Fernando Haddad- the people's mayor, and the role of the media as he sees it, and news in general here in SP- as we explore the rooftop of the Copan- a truly phenomenal 360 view in a building comprised of only 32 floors and yet is the largest residential complex in Brasil.
Quarta-feira. Another day. The sun blasts above a block-away building and into my window at 7:30. I miss a meeting with Gus by waiting in the wrong park- but 'tis never a wash. I find another park and finally Parca del Luz beside the Luz station in all its glory. Full of fountains and fantastic sculpture and quiet places out of the heat and... teeming with that feeling… a hangout for prostitutes? Gus comes to mind again, as I walk down a portion of his street back toward the hotel and pass a few "American" bars. "Las Jegas" being one. There are bordellos or "big houses" tucked in here and there, it seems. I am thrilled in an insipid way to find my favorite clove cigarettes. Samporena A Milds. There are newsstands everywhere called Bancas that distribute literature and smokes. I have a debate with myself about how many packs I will try to take with me. I wonder if they are as good as I remember. Gus and I drink Ibiripava beer and macha and eat ponchu-quejiou (cheese rolls) and in the meantime I chew gum to nurse away my appetite. Traveling broke is a good way to diet. No open container laws means pleanty of fun on the streets. Joints close up around 1 or 2a anyhow. "Blue Night Show"- a neon sign shines over a patch of Augusta as I open wide my screenless 8th floor window to dream out into the cool breeze of a Monday evening. I think there was a heat wave just before I got into town, and now the air is smoother, and more rain no doubt on the way. This place is truly lovely, and makes me love and miss my own city all the more.
Randomly, I find bidets in private bathrooms to be another fun euro-esque feature. But kind of hate it when fixtures aren't white or off-white. I'm the kind of person who monitors the condition of my excreta. Flavio, my concierge, objects when I try to tip him after getting my requisite pizza injection last night, it will be the last time I see him tho'. After these long conversations we've had across the desk, he admits to being gay because he thinks my asking him out for a drink means I'm after him. We have permanent wanderlust in common and I do genuinely hope to run into him in the states. He is so proud of his travels. Fruit and pizza of course have been more the subsistence here. Ate just the greasiest little cheeze thingy outside of Parca Republica, and I splurge on the airport bus service- a charter- not very proletarian of me, but nor really is drinking at the airport, and since I can't take these beers, they gotta go. My microSD card is full from pictures. My last roll of film is almost cashed. Anyway, the bus lets me stretch out. It can take as long as it likes in traffic while it affords me a last elevated view of this extensive filthy city sweating all across itself. I've just got enough cash to take the train when I get back to Chicago. And to think! Gosh, how rediculous to be stranded at your own airport. Too, my sunglasses broke, so of course that means it's time to go home. I sure could think of reasons to stay, but the best one would be my own bilingual love. My concupiscence is, despite my generally infrequent masturbatory habits, getting the best of me. In short: I'm horny.
One of my first days in the city was a Tuesday. Hot, but not too humid. The MASP is gratis then, so I go and it's all Parisian 19th c. artists and Lucian Freud's etchings on display. WAY up-my-alley. I start to thinking about how blessed, absolutely and truly I am, to be a model, to be an artist. To know artists, and to have a love and reverence for this amazing history and work. And that perhaps I shall never really want for anything because these feelings are being so deeply forged into my heart, and they- along with a profound humble gratitude- cause me to fortify my real legacy of personhood and responsible eldership. I am an adult and my heart beats and I live! And for this and more I sit in front of Van Gogh's Evening Walk and weep. I cry and cry from the heart and my tears make my soul clean. My truest luck is the gift of this understanding.
...that it is better to have more ideas than one can execute. To execute those select powerful few in a way that benefits others. To compare and discuss these benefits and all outstanding desires in a way that removes personal obstacles so that one can entertain more ideas...
...that being treated to a home cooked meal by friends who have been planning on having you over for a long time now, and everything is delicious and you wish you had more room in your stomach, and the music and the conversation is great and the cat wants attention from you and you wish you never had to leave... Bliss. Simple bliss.
...that when it comes to making art, there are myriad benefits to any approach. But when you get to make it with friends in the form of a sonic mess that requires very little cleanup. This is an extremely satisfying way to make time disappear.
...that quiche comes pretty darn close to being the world's most perfect food. Next to chocolate with coffee in it.
...that, perhaps even tho' it seems to be a poor strategy with mostly a negative result, approaching the process of submitting creative writing to journals who publish it by way of "throwing" any and everything at them, carefully of course, to see if it will "stick". Well. it's just kinda fun.
"For me, it's a mantra. A blessing. A reminder. A moment to moment affirmation of never forgetting to live my life in contrast with conformity as much as I can manage, embrace the myriad opportunities to create, laugh, and dance as often as I can manage. Not so much a case of arrested development but a refusal to accept that with age comes a dull and slowing march. Not getting along merely to go along."
Because I remember what it was like to stand in the middle of the living room and open my arms wide and spin and spin and spin... /
NIGHT OUT 2025-
First the hot sunset. A real desert burner. Then thunder hiccuping like a sphincter deep in your gut.
Thick clouds, real in their gilt edges within the pale uniform of tired indigo washing out the sky beyond. That end-of-summer rain on approach. Fetid downpour ripe as a tramp. Slowly clearing.
Full evening takeover, then.
A hazy, half-fat moon. Over half. Gibbous waxing, wet as a jawbreaker worked over by a dog.
Before all this. Hard to believe now what those clouds looked like. Wide and peach-milk-pink. Spilled strawberry milkshake melted out on a lamp. Then atrophied blue gangrened deep thru. Corrupted simple under the sounds of bootsteps in blind alleyways.
The bar closed down after a good run and the team had themselves a long final party. They put on music the boss would never let them play with clientele in the place, and proceeded to destroy the ambiance with their bare hands. It would stand empty for a time after that.
Meanwhile- bass and smoke. Expletives, skateboards and some game on. More of everything than usual, especially sirens.
The city a bit of clamor and noise reeling amongst itself.
A ponderous night, drunk on new wind. Streetlamps courting miles of loneliness in all directions.
People can feel summer gasping its last and they want it gone, but they don’t either. It would be hard to make a false world and stay there while any windows are open and the whispered threat of more rain is riding the airy relentlessness.
However, a week prior is an example. Another place, courting the taxidermied reverb of memory.
Earlier, in the park made of late afternoon and bench and foliage in a neighborhood different from your own, a man stands in the shade of the garden not far from your spot and sings the same song aloud over and over. The book is good. You put it down to close your eyes. You are wearing heels. You are perhaps a half hour away from stopping at a new bar and killing more time before an art show.
Is it Friday? A day hazing over fast into the good long while of night. Both are so happy to have had themselves. To have been connected.
This was long after the rooftop days were over. Removed and exposed from the vantage of three or more stories.
Still stranded on a long road abandoned to cold on the saddest night of your life. These opposites were the same. They came before and after the dream-within-dream world of another bedroom.
Here you climb into the bed. Heavy covers lush and cool. You wake and find the envelope hidden under the pillow.
“Give this to the butler” says the fine paper with a black key etched to its opposite side. When he comes, you do. Then change into a red robe to follow the tall handsome butler silently out into the carpeted castle hallways and down. Down into a tearoom where you are expected. You greet and join your ancestors for light repast until the sun too goes down. Thru the prismatic glass all netted together with tall wrought iron spires, it turns into a polished cherry flame and winks out.
What do you do then? What do you say?
Come back now. Quit dreaming. It is Friday after all. The last of the last. Someone stumbled in to the place saying “I’m just here for the piano.”
Many hours later everyone made it home, altho’ the homes they made it to weren’t always theirs to start.
I hope you're still writing. I imagine you are. I'm a writer living in Chicago. Originally from western Pennsylvania. It's a whole lot of poetry with some short stories/flash fiction thrown in, for me.
I work in a mom-n-pop bookshop of all-used volumes in the Logan Square neighborhood; as you can imagine I get to read a lot. That's where I found your books.
What I love most about your fiction is the people. Sometimes the ones you remember the most are the ones you see for an instant or two, then they're gone forever. It's like they just swooped down to give you this one thing to remember. Then they're out of here.
I'm familiar with that part of WV where your head and heart are so much of the time. One time my car broke down on the side of 119 somewhere, (which runs north right past the house where I grew up in Home, PA) and I had to wait hours for my dad to come get me. In the meantime I was at the house of this family who had me for dinner and were such dears. They had 3 girls. The girls loved me and wanted to play and play and play. We played inside. We played outside. I was in my mid-twenties then. I was lucky. It was midsummer and I remember the light fading over their dusty back yard. I was exhausted and filthy and I remember going in having turkey and applesauce. Later I sent them a thank you note with a gift basket of fancy foods in small portions and nice packaging. You know, jellies and dips and crackers and stuff. The girls are all grown up. Maybe one of them still has the basket.
Usually I think I'm writing to answer question(s) I find myself asking. That ever happen to you? Like, if I put a few characters thru something, I'll gain some insight. It's a bit like playing dolly in the big-girl sense. If you have too many dollies tho', you want to add them all in. Sometimes that makes it complicated where it probably doesn't need to be.
I watched all the Holler Presents videos on Vimeo and they are so worth it. I hope you make more. My husband used to be a teacher and we watched the video about your Mom's last day at school and we cried. She is so good. And the pastor you interviewed. Good stories from good people who have a way of changing the world you don't see that often, because it's not flashy. But boy is it important.
Hope you're having a nice autumn out there. All the trees do here is turn yellow.
Sincerely, a fan.