Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.
I’m not the one you’re looking for, and I get that that might be a disappointment. I do. I wish I could be your salvation, your inspiration. I wish I could inspire some sensation, but I’m numb, man. I talk a good game, but right now I’m just trying to stay in it. It’s hard walking around numb – there are so many things to bump into. So many store displays to be China-Shop-Bulled into disarray. I don’t like it, this turtle shell, but it’s better than nothing. Hell. It’s better than having my heart shredded daily. I don’t want to cross you, get on your cross – I don’t want it. I want to be in the shadows until the light comes back.
Imagine for a second that you are standing on the roof of an old Victorian at 24th and Mission. You’re drunk and throwing gravel at the busses with your roommates. They jump the gap between the buildings and so do you. It’s all fun and games, but sometimes you wonder: ‘would I care if I fell?’ Became a bloody bone sculpture in the alley? Is that what you want? Is that what I want? Any of us. Do we know what the fuck we’re doing? Are we playing a part that was prescribed for us, or hacking our way through the bullshit jungle with a broken machete?
I’m being too abstract. I’ll break it down – get ready.
Quiet desperation never felt so loud. The country is stuck in the sticky fly-trap of hate. We decry hate and hate the haters. We hate our lives that will get fixed later – they won’t. You’ll never be whole. You just need to decide what kind of compromise fits best. You try to be you, but it don’t pay worth shit. So, you act like someone else for a little bit – get used to it. Swallow all your truths – you’ll be set. Not jet set. Rich enough not to die and leave your TV lonely.
I know this is a bummer trip; I don’t know how to force a positive spin on it – don’t know why I’d want to. I’m not your monkey. I’m nobody’s monkey, not even my own.
Dark and true. Everybody's looking for a savior. It's best not to volunteer for or accept that job. I really liked the line about leaving your TV lonely.ReplyDelete
This too: "Quiet desperation never felt so loud."Delete
I like the bloody bone sculpture in the alley. It's very graphic. Pain as a work of art. And the public spectacle - for others to watchDelete
The sky was dark that night. The moon was new and clouds hid the stars. Frigid winter air carried the plaintive cry of a diesel locomotive untold miles away.ReplyDelete
Grandpa believed in winter camping. Said it was good for the body and the soul. He was snoring quietly in his sleeping bag, beside mine. Lesser men might have brought tents, but he said you can’t see the stars from inside a tent. Not that we could see them tonight, anyway.
His snoring stopped. For a half second, I was afraid he’d died.
“You awake?” he asked.
“Yep,” I answered.
“Something bothering you?”
“Yep,” I answered again.
“Wanna talk about it?”
Grandpa was always there for me, ready to listen, but never pushing.
Grandpa was also good at reading my mind.
“Your dad tries too hard.”
“Yep. And tells me I don’t try hard enough.”
“That’s probably my fault. I always wanted what was best for him. What I thought was best for him. I wasn’t much good at listening to what he thought was best for him.”
“And he’s doing the same to me.”
Grandpa sighed. “What was it this time?”
“I was watching a movie. One where the dog dies at the end. And I was crying. He walked in on me, saw my tears, and told me to ‘be a man,’ then walked out.”
“I’ve never seen him cry. Does he think men don’t cry?”
“He grew up in a time when a man could only cry in public when his wife, his horse, or his dog died.”
“Stupid,” he continued. “Men feel pain, loss, shame. We’re not any stronger for hiding it. And we make ourselves feel lonesome, and we make the next generation think they’re the only ones who know pain, loss, and shame.”
“Do you cry, Grandpa?”
“I do. Especially when I see my own failings as a father, and how those failings affect you. And when I lost your grandmother. And sometimes, when I remember her.”
“Nothin’ to be sorry for, boy. Life is what it is.”
There was an owl that asked, “Who, who, who,” in the darkness.
“Next time he tells you to be a man, you add some words at the end of that sentence. Don’t say ‘em out loud, just say ‘em to yourself. ‘Be a man who cries, who laughs, who loves. Be a man who has nothing to be ashamed of.”
“And if you ever have a son, teach him that better and earlier than your father or I did.”
The clouds parted enough for me to see Orion’s belt in the sky. And I went to sleep knowing I’d learned a little bit more about how to be a man.
You have NO idea how much I needed to read this today (or maybe you did?). And the writing is so spare and beautiful. Love the MagicalRealLeland and fable tones. This is a beautiful piece. You outdid yourself. I don't know one person alive or dead who can pull off flash like this so splendidly.Delete
aw, thanks... you make me blush.Delete
I adore this.Delete
Thank you. That means a lot.Delete
Yeah, so good. The imagery of the parting clouds. Orion's belt. All of it.Delete
Me too. It's very emotive, sweet, giving, generous, deceptively simple. I like the structure. How he worries for a second that he's died... the idea of not being good enough... this eternal struggle... thinking your parents don't think you're good enough... and then I started thinking of the song Simple Man too :)Delete
This is a new thing we tried to learn.
We dreamed a whole summer away.
My cousins walked alongside the ledge.
When we were young we laughed and believed.
Now so many are gone we balk and flinch.
Sparrows amass in the charcoal margins.
The rest of us don’t hardly ever blink.
A cab came by, and I damn well flagged it.
No matter. No sense. I think I also floored it.
Grieve next time, but this time roll with it.
What’s the word they use? Dissociation?
Don’t you dare feel sorry for me. Okay? What happened to me happens to thousands of kids, maybe more. No. I want you to focus on the good parts of a bad tale.
I’m a grown man now, of course. This is a life I didn’t choose but found. And it’s really not so bad.
Right? Do you remember? Since you were there too?
Easy words, not such easy thoughts. I don’t even know if they noticed me as they pulled the car from the rocks, dripping like a murder weapon, and I stood on the road above, squinting into the decaying honey of a late August day.
Chewing on human evil.
“You know they never found him?”
“They found his car. Some of his DNA in the wreck. But no body.”
“What else they find?”
“Someone else had been in the car too.”
“No one anyone knows.”
Hail this tarnished Mary. If this is it, if this is the moment I die, I accept it.
Pain is unconscionable, but love is paramount. My entire left side is ruinous, yet my ears and heart are eerily specific, hearing on a loop the empyrean throat of Isabel Bayrakdaraian as she dreams Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 anew, while rains fall like dreary curtains.
At the hour of my death, a dog came out of the dark woods. Now talk to me. Own me. Anagrams are loco. Keep on listening. Anagrams lure, okay.
Stupid, goofball, elusive, this damnable struggle wants so badly to be told.
Striding into the bar filled with the spirit of Dorothy Parker, I fell in actual love. She was a hiccup draped in ticklish grey at the very end of a smeared warmth.
The black dog insinuated himself into our family and moved with us to the cabin built of wood that hunkered in the shadows of giant firs. When we had visitors he vetted them, growling like unfathomable sonar at two men who tried to cross our threshold. Mostly he wagged his stiff tail like an emotional rudder that ached to proclaim happiness. Yet he was never fooled. And we chased those particular men away with the assuredness, the quiet promise of violence, the unspoken quenching of some awful complex thirst.
In the endless gnomic bar of Dorothy Parker.
These colors. So subdued yet so attendant. I’m unleashed into the street, and alert I bounce then thrust my feet atop the running board and launch into the seat. Then I drive. I am a woman, driving. In the nineteen forties. Away from a massacre.
Darting on and off I-5 an hour south of the Canadian border, Koma Kulshan’s dusky peak implacable beyond. Dream our common place in this commonplace place. Here I knew a woman with a mouth like yours. Exceptional. Magnetic. Even her brows were freighted with meaning. I drove on and off the interstate like a firefly, headlights lighting each lost tendril I stumbled upon, blunt visions of Econolodge and myriad locations more faceless yet. A kaleidoscope of bleary shelters, arranged hierarchical, like pantheons of gods, sacred and senseless, screamed from the overlooked backdrop.
It’s a silent avalanche atop some empty peak.
This thing started toward me the moment I was born. Something sleek and inaugurated by my own insensate launch. It’s coming fast, like teeth. Cold, exposed, like beholden jaws.
Starved. Indebted. Imminent. Adamant.
You. No other. Please tell me the same. Please.
O enchantress, O my dreadful queen of desolation, did you ever hold on as tightly again as you held on to me? What yet squirms in the folds of your recall? Who will have the wherewithal to abridge this appalling tale? Will anyone? Where is the dog from the woods when we need him? Where is Ms. Parker? Love, life, music as sung by a child? The wind wrapping scarves of mist around skeletal branches? The cavernous indictment of silence where birds and insects once chirped? Where has it all gone? Where have you all gone? And where indeed am I?
Wow. Wow. The quick cuts from scene to scene would look like hacking in my hands... but in yours, lovely sashimi. And to continue the metaphor, I love picking your sentences up with my chopsticks to savor, a word at a time.Delete
The "gnomic bar of Dorothy Parker" will stick with me for a long time... and Maggie says you got the black dog just right. The rudder of a tail indeed.
Thank you for this.
Ha ha, that tail. Aching to proclaim happiness. Thank you, my friend. I know most people read my words and go "Huh?" and that's okay. But I also know a very small group of my friends get it, and I honour that fiercely.Delete
Also, I freaking love sushi! :)
The Dorothy Parker references. And "dripped like a murder weapon.' I love the quick hits.Delete
There's lots in this. A heady freefall of images, poetry and prose. I also liked the little rudder... kind of like a boat... he knows where he's going or keeping everyone afloat. I think this is my favourite part: "Exceptional. Magnetic. Even her brows were freighted with meaning"Delete
Part of something bigger. I couldn't write short today.ReplyDelete
Eugene didn’t know what to say to thirteen-year-old Frank Maxwell, suddenly bereft of his father and shuffled over to his studio by his well-intentioned mother. “You worry too much,” Ruth had said, after she’d accepted Trudy Maxwell’s invitation on his behalf. “You don’t have to fix his problems, just let him… I don’t know. Show him how to prepare a canvas, or something. Let him be useful.”
But Eugene hadn’t even gotten the chance. As soon as Ruth left to help the boy’s mother, Frank’s usually slack posture stiffened. He fixed his pale-blue bloodshot eyes on his boots and said, “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I didn’t intend to…” Eugene had a memory of seeing the boy, consumed by his ratty army jacket and slumped against a tree in the orchard, with a sketchpad and a distinct air of wishing he could disappear. Eugene might have done so too, if he were the quiet child among the passel of rough-and-tumble Maxwell boys. “I have an extra pad around here…somewhere…”
“That’s kind of cool.” The boy gestured toward the corner, to what Eugene presumed was his half-finished study of a platoon of apple trees in winter, their spindly branches scratching through a bank of fog like skeletal fingers from the grave. “That’s kinda how they look. Creepy. Like they’re haunted.”
Exactly as he’d imagined them. “I just”—Eugene cleared his throat—“paint what I see. If you’d like, I could show you how—”
Just then Wyeth nosed into the room, curious about their visitor. Odd how he reacted to different people. He gave what he was given. Frank’s brothers like to roughhouse with him, and Wyeth responded in kind. With Frank he’d always been polite, watchful, soft-eyed. Like he was a soul in need of saving. The Irish Setter, still a pup at that time, trotted in and leaned against Frank’s leg.
Frank scratched a russet ear. “Can I take Wyeth for a walk?”
The dog perked up at the sound of his second-favorite word.
Eugene could hardly deny the boy what would most likely be a healing experience. But he’d started wrapping his head around the idea of nurturing another creative soul, something his daughter had never been interested in. He felt oddly deflated, but said, “Sure. Leash’s in the hall closet.”
The boy started to leave. Then stopped and addressed the floor. “Or you could show me some stuff. Whatever.”
“Well. Of course. We could do that. But look.” He pointed to Wyeth. “It’s hardly fair to promise something you don’t intend to make good on.”
The depth of Wyeth’s brown eyes said the same.
“Uh. Yeah. Okay. We’ll just be out for a few minutes. Then, uh, maybe you could show me what you do to make the branches look like that? I’ve been trying to draw them and they never look like I see them in my head, you know?”
Eugene nodded. “You know where I’ll be.”
As boy and dog scrabbled away, Eugene set the unfinished painting on an easel and dug out a sketchpad. Never in his life had he tried to instruct someone else about art, this thing he did like breathing, but perhaps it was an opportunity for both of them to learn.
Beautiful... and you know I love Wyeth. These characters are charming.Delete
I love "second-favorite word." This short piece made me think of two movies I watched recently: At Eternity's Gate, a film about Van Gogh, and If Beale Street Could Talk, a subtly told tale the complete opposite of strident.Delete
(Also: everyone seems to be writing about dogs lately.)
It’s because we need reminders that some living beings are truly good and have tails to wag.Delete
Ah, the healing power of art :) I like that the boy already draws and he's distant, but he's letting the painter in a little, and you can feel that the two characters will gradually understand each other/become friends... Wyeth is a cool name for a dogDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Playtime for the fellow left last,
Striding forth in this lost land
Ever roaming, never still;
Condemned to wander in passing
And in this life so live again,
Walking through each age –
Stalking the past with a gun,
Dreading a glint of the future.
He tiptoes backwards, eyes drawn,
Knowing no-one but himself,
Trailing a stiff up-ended branch,
Leaves dropping, like the family
Who used to hold his hands.
beauty and pain all wrapped up together. "stalking the past with a gun" is especially an image that is haunting.Delete
It’s coming in the night
These colours wrapt, vast
Constrictions of a snake,
For here it stretches open wide,
Empty in state, visible
To the unnaked eye,
Pretending, shaking the rush.
Wishing to stand, so it dies.
This green is churning yellow
Butter, spilling over, fulfilling
A dream a cow has, nine days
Ahead, and so it seems it flies,
Hurtling skyward, draped in blue,
Fought out in a trespassed
Fantasy, caught and reimagined,
A white cloud of fear fixed to
The post, and so a crow laughs.
We live to conquer, he says,
He informs us, whoever will listen.
This want is a parasitic scourge,
Blasting a hole through a country
Hungry for a hero and finding none.
Walls, bricks, mortar, where are we?
Is this placard too rotten to be read?
He bears a shield, but no sword,
Only words burned in a bitter pot
Offering daggers to paper people.
It bleeds. Something is rotten and
It is not the Bard. This voice lies
Instead, building barricades where
Only unity should dwell. His voice
Sours, his body sickens inside.
We live to conquer, he says,
But the letters are hollow and red.
I know... it's Sunday, and we're supposed to be done, but I have one more in me.ReplyDelete
I was so young that year, and so very idealistic. It was my first year teaching, and I was sure I could make a difference in the lives of the sons and daughters of the coal miners who built this town and the chicken farmers who saved it when the mines closed.
It wasn’t required, but I taught most of my classes in both English and Spanish, hoping to open the eyes of the Anglos to the beauty of another language and to open the doors of opportunity to the children of the mostly immigrant chicken farmers.
One of my less brilliant ideas was to spend every Friday on job training and opportunities. Six weeks into the school year, I asked each of the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answers were mostly predictable. Doctors, lawyers, musicians, celebrities, and such.
And then it was Arturo’s turn.
“I don’t care what I do, I just want to be better than my dad.”
The bell rang and the period was over. I asked Arturo to stay behind.
“What did you mean by that, Arturo? Better than your dad?”
“I don’t wanna be a fuckin’ janitor like he is. I wanna do something that earns respect.”
I inhaled, and then held my breath while I counted to ten.
“Come with me. I want to show you something.” I led him out of the classroom, into the hall. We walked to the end of the hall.
“What color is that door, Arturo?” I pointed to Mrs. Davies’ room.
“And that one?” I pointed at Mrs. Kofman’s room.
Door by door I repeated my question, and he repeated his answer. Until we got to the door to my room.
“Blue,” he said.
“Now why would I have a blue door, when every other door is painted white?”
Arturo was sullen, and said, “I dunno.”
We went back into my room. “When I moved here, I knew I’d have problems. I didn’t bring a wife with me. I brought my husband.”
I watched his eyes. He looked down at the floor.
“Gossip being what it is, it didn’t take very long for everyone in town to know the new teacher was gay.”
He was still staring at the floor.
“Second day of school, I came in early, to prepare lesson plans, and there was your father the janitor painting my door blue. He had only painted the bottom half when I interrupted him.
“‘What are you doing?,’ I asked him.”
“‘Estoy pintando su puerta.’”
“I told him I could see that, but asked him why, Though I didn’t really have to. I could see the first spray-painted letters of the word ‘faggot’ in the space he hadn’t painted yet.”
“He answered me in slow English, ‘Because we we have no white paint, and because we watch out for each other.’”
“Your father is my friend, Arturo. A friend I respect greatly. Not because of his job, but because of who he is. If you’re going to be a better man than he is, you’ve got a long way to go, and it has nothing to do with what career you choose.”
I think, but I am not sure, that I saw tears welling up in his eyes, still cast downward.
“I understand.” He raised his eyes to mine, defiant yet proud. “May I go now?”
When he reached the door, he turned and said, “I’m sorry.”
We both learned something that day, the son of a janitor and a wet-behind-the-ears teacher. Before you decide on a profession, you have to decide what kind of a man you’ll be.
And neither Arturo nor I had to admit what we both knew, that he was the one who tagged my door. Because now we will watch out for each other.