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.
Eighties Night feels like Halloween. The dishwasher girl as Madonna. She swings her ass in fishnets around the dance floor busing tables. Hall and Oats are begging everyone to ”Say It Ain’t So.” Back in the kitchen two industrial fans push around air at 110 degrees.
Her boyfriend is serving kamikazes dressed like a zombie from Thriller. All his carefully orchestrated fake old blood trickling from his forehead to his cheek.
Later they take his motorcycle across downtown in a summer drizzle that seems so cold.
In the wet, the city is like a shining toy. Or a barricade flashing. Battery operated.
She gets in the shower with some wine. Breaking the slippery glass, she nudges the pieces into the drain with her toe.
He leans half naked into the railing of their 5th floor apt. Makeup off, contacts out, glasses on, bloodshot. His thick cigarette enduring soft drops plunging from the August black.
The bartender and the dishwasher. They go to bed early and make wishes into each other’s warm hair, into the three-paddle ceiling fan, out of their window that looks out to other windows.
Out on the street they left only moments ago, the light pollution makes the stars into squinted pinpricks. Anti-reflections of amber streetlight in a prostitute’s tar-dark eyes as she sits low in the passenger seat of a car that belongs to a man whose name she does not know.
The city is like an awkward teenage boy who wants a first kiss, or that same attention. The city is writing a letter to itself on itself. Each letter in the shape of a drop of rain. The littlest prayer for the certain hope that tomorrow keeps becoming today.
For halloween last Jennifer was Rosie the Riveter. She took on the idea of keeping with a theme for all Halloweens to come. She would have her costumes represent 'Important Women thruout the Ages'. This year she got stuck somehow on wanting to be the Delphic Oracle. But only up until the time I told her she'd have to dress in an old sheet and carry a stool she could sit on while also holding a laurel sprig. Also she would have to “inhale” ethylene and pretend to go into a trance.
Within an hour, the new passion was "Godzilla". Godzilla went thru a gender change real fast as you might imagine.
Halloween was on a Thursday night. She had decided on Godzilla on Sunday. So there was lots and lots of time to build a costume out of slabs of cardboard and other things stapled together before being spraypainted forest and neon green.
She had decided to make maximum noise. She was going to strap tin cookware to her feet and mash around the neighborhood. Our 'hood wasn't that big to begin with. But it was a great tradition to trick-or-treat at the 7-Eleven and then leave an offering of your favorite candy at “Pumpkin Rock" which sat high on the hillside adjacent to the episcopal church graveyard and was, each year, painted like a Jack-o-Lantern.
The Jonesons kept up this tradition. An ancient couple that lived just beyond the church property, who served as its landscapers and security force all at once. They had a mean german shepard named Barry that they would dress up like a fuzzy white bunny for the holiday each year. The costume did somehow take the edge off the snarling, drooling animal.
Mary and Rayanne, our neighbors from a mile out, were going as a drug dealer and a unicorn respectively.
I laughed when Jen told me. Then I got puzzled. A drug dealer? Kind of sounds like a less-than-wholesome persona for a 10-year-old to be portraying...
Jen came back with "Man, her dad couldn't afford to buy her a costume, so he let her borrow his clothes." I couldn’t seem to break her of the habit of calling me “Man” instead of “Mom.”
But I had one of those gleaming moments where I realize again that my daughter is socially aware & tactful & that I am often a bumbling nut full of questions.
Jen and Mary are the same age. Rayanne is 7. They made a good match in the end, the pair of them: Mary thugged-out. Holding the hand of her sister, dressed in fuzzy purple with a big gold horn. She had been a unicorn last year, too.
The night of, a few hours before we dressed to leave, we planned our route.
I issued a challenge, as I do every October 31. This year was 100 pieces of candy. Averaging 2-3 pieces per house, I deemed that we were going to hit approximately 55 houses. At about a minute a house, it should take us one hour. Mary seemed very pleased.
Down Main street we ran into Benny Cho who was also in the 4th grade, dressed like a piece of popcorn. And Karen Motley, who had made herself into a creative rendition of the Empire State Building. They joined us, and I told them our last stop was Pumpkin Rock.
Rayanne had never been there before, she admitted. She couldn't hide her excitement.
Too, the littlest one was quick to compliment my costume. Even tho' she couldn't guess out just who I was. My answer:
"A character I watched in my Saturday morning cartoons growing up... Rainbow Brite!"
Obviously, I had dated myself. She had no frame of reference.
The kids had reached the challenge goal by about 42 houses, so I cut it short and we went up to the Jonesons for cider.
Jen, the female Godzilla, and Mary, the drug-dealing gangster, were hanging out and keeping it low key when they were together. I watched them hold hands and whisper. When I'd realized they'd gone up to the Pumpkin Rock by themselves, I waited a moment. Then followed. Rayanne was deep in conversation with Mrs. Joneson and managed to make friends with Barry.
Mary was crying. I let Godzilla tell me what was wrong.
"Her dad lost his job and she's afraid they're going to have to move out and be homeless. And that she might have to leave Rayanne."
"Why would they have to leave each other?"
"I don't know. She's really scared, tho'."
I moved over to Mary: "Everything will be alright baby. You'll see. Maybe while your dad finds a brand new job, you can stay with Jen and I for awhile."
Godzillas eyes lit up.
I continued: “At least we could eat all our Halloween fare together and get fat!!"
Mary giggled and I squeezed her close. Her tears resolved and she wiped at the rest. We all smiled then, and howled at the moon as it arrived out from its veil of grey clouds.
The youth in these girls made all the possibilities in me glow with heedfulness. A likely lesson for Halloween.
Good morning and luck. Let me reach for you in this light like where I once did. Vandalism and other expectant mothers go flocked of lower worlds while we play. And we’re not loose yet of skin or future abasements. Look whose hear claims form. Your voice a series of whispered triple sevens and mined in the dark seepage of a lung. Taking care to blanch bets.
I eat my sleep. So help me. Any knotted angel tests my upholstered basement mind. Can you fly into my neon quarter? Please, I need your will to demolish bad black loops. Will earthen November relinquish our gutted emeralds long enough for us to spitshine them back to a gin-soaked lustre? Tell me flayed folders hiss open sticking paper meat and remember our hearts at last.
I anticipate this little love-confection. Later in the morning, a message will come by the phone with still more morning greetings and wishes.
I will wear a new dress tonight. There is no pressure to worry about tomorrow. It will arrive with all its peasant error like a black hair growing indecently from the nipple.
I do press myself in relief against the fear of being uprooted by the sandy soils of a soft life. Too many pillows and stubbornly beautiful conveniences. And permissions to engage in so much bad grammar- like an editing demiurge, threatening to become self-aware and ruin my carefully preserved bad batch of poems.
When you know you want to think, walk to the skate park. Take a bench and hit a cigarette.
A slow Thursday afternoon. For a moment these children are completely in charge of their own destinies, and that is a kind of utopia.
Sometimes you don't know what you even need or want to think about, you just know you need to think.
The sound of clack-clack-skurr and muffled punk rock from somebody's beat up boom box are just what you need to do it.
After the cigarette there's the lollipop.
Now you’re warm enough to take off that cardigan and get out your notebook and begin. Beginning anywhere feels good.
Being here to begin feels best.
I am up and out right when the thin rain turns to soft snow in the air. A transition witnessed by those lucky enough to be commuting while the sparrows are farting.
The still mostly-quiet streets reflected double in unfrozen puddles. It's like the inside of a snowglobe after awhile. Things always seem more festive and homey this time of year when the white stuff fluffs down out of the big blue nowhere. Should have worn the Santa cap today.
Under the bright lights of the bus innards, it looks to be even darker outside. My stomach flops about from late night pizza recall and one ibuprofen at 4am to stem a would-be hangover. Abstaining from coffee. Eager for tea.
Not a whiteout but close. The silent wipers going the whole way and Larry keeping the cab toasty. Everything in the suburbs is sugar dusted an inch save the roads. It is early on a whipped cream day.
Yesterday was sun and chill and my luck spotted a dollar on the ground which I used in the record store. There are plenty of things to feel lucky about from now on, and having you is the best one of them.
Love you this morning and every one hence.
...in this moment I am swollen like a tear...
I rip the poster from the doorway. The show has come and gone. It went well. I managed to unlock a part of myself to do it. It is the best it could be, and I have passed one test and now, hopefully oddly, there will be others.
There is a man whom I see on the street in stark contrast to the beautiful people. He is not homeless or drunk, but in fact comfortably dressed in clean clothes. He drinks a cup of coffee when he isn't using a broom or sitting for a moment. He is very crippled. He is most likely someone's uncle. He has few teeth, but a big smile.
I didn't know what to make of him at first, and now I know he is safe, and someone is looking out for him.
I am restless with the feeling that the day has already run away with everything and everyone important. The hazy light and cool air seems to put everyone into a motion capture. The fresh blue morning aliasing me and my collected intentions out to the coffee shop to write. I'd been threading to camp here some day and people watch until something better pulls me away.
That day is today.
I'm reading a book so short and good that I will probably finish it in one pass.
Here there is a cappuccino and croissant and soft music and three female baristas who laugh and twitter on, and I think about flirting and my husband from the late night previous. His brown eyes sparkling with exhaustion in the bedside lamplight.
The bus arrives out the window to the right. It deposits and retrieves, and workers make their connections. There is a rush, then a lull, then a rush again. Waves.
Some of them have no way of knowing how love will transform their lives.
Perhaps this random summer day will afford them some idea.
I feel soft today. Adequately spent. Carbon-burnt as a sparkler. I'd almost wish the hours to rush and come to the place for alcohol and music again. I want to pass the time in the shade and still make a new friend.
The last tatters of croissant sit on my plate like badly arranged art. I don't wait very long to put down the pen when I can't think of something else to say.
And then I have a memory. The nature of their odd occurrence is a delightful mystery. I relish the recollections of the girl with the Peter-pan tattoo across her back. And a girl at the show last night who, in the edge-less shadows looked like an old friend. That familiar ramp, also new every time. A fresh topography of a one-piece collection leading to the next. A scent, a color, an emotion. The rising flavor sweetening or spurring the day, however briefly.
Striking polyphanous bells that triangulate an emotional position. Into a season of grateful existence.
I begin by taking the shortcut thru the park to get home. I write while walking. I begin by looking for things discarded by others which might be useful to me. I begin by trying to be open and gentle. The sun both invites and threatens this. In my life, the old and almost irreplaceable thing is preferred to the new and untainted. I could walk hours, or just sit in the garden and think of nothing where the birds bicker and jostle the tall greenery, and the sun is about to rise completely over the rear gate and suck up all the dew thru its straws of rays that will keep burning and searching.
I begin by taking the long way around.