Thursday, September 12, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

The wind came gently through the low, dry branches and the dogs were light and liquid. The water suggested swift currents and deep eddies, soft entreaties. Jack, tired and lopsided, spit into the water and smiled - the air smelled of fish like he knew it would. The dogs knew. The wind and the trees and the beckoning evening. It was all right, and it was within Jack - he breathed it and his heart beat with it; he could feel the blood throb on the old cork handle. He smiled again, spit once, and cast into the loamy froth that he had seen in dreams, now revealed as he knew it would be.

The line slipped through his fingers as Jack worked the ideas and riffles and logs right through his mind, unconscious. Jack was part of the river and the river knew it. The river, which took only what you were willing to give it, but gave so much back. Jack gave himself to the water, let it carry him, there in spirit only as he became silk, flowing night.

Smells on the wind. Smoke from a fire. Good smoke, clean and fresh - Jack felt the warmth of the stranger's fire and nodded his head, matted grey hair stuffed under a red, woman's hat. Spit in the water and smell of the good night, Jack. Smell and breathe and you are the river, Jack. See what the river can give you.

And hours passed in tepid lifetimes and fish were caught, released, killed and eaten. Jack turned into stories and legends and ways to fool yourself into thinking things used to be better than they were. Jack doesn't care, nor does the river. Drought or flood, the river adapts, and it will outlast us all. Even when it disappears. Because rivers cannot die. And neither can anglers and storytellers.


  1. "'Life is fragile, but death is eternal,' They always say. What makes death so special? It's so easy to achieve. Bullets, bombs, blades, flames, falls, frights...hell, even holding your breath long enough could kill you. Death's an entitled prick, thinking he's all high and mighty when in reality he's easier to get to than the last pickle in the jar. People are scared of him just because he's some big scary name. Bah, fuck off. You know what's hard? Living! That shit is fucking difficult, man! You ever tried to take out a loan for a new car when your credit score was total garbage and your ability to keep more than two grand in the bank was less stable than a tower of Jenga blocks in the last couple minutes of the game?"

    I look at the visitor, who was as white as a sheet before they turn around and book it out of the cemetery. All these wannabe ghost-hunters look for ghosts to talk to for fame and then when they finally find them, they pussy out. No wonder we don't want to talk to them.

    1. Cool twist and anthropomorphic exhumation! The structure works really well.

    2. Word love for Mader! Great rhythm in that opening line. This one too: "Jack turned into stories and legends and ways to fool yourself into thinking things used to be better than they were." May storytellers live forever.

    3. More word love for Mader!there in spirit only as he became silk, flowing night.
      That's me today. I was released into that mysterious world called "outside..."

    4. Sweet! The river doesn't care. I like their relationship. It's like they are communicating just by being there. And I'm wondering why he's wearing a woman's hat. That goes unanswered, this off-the-cuff little remark that might mean a big story somewhere.

    5. Yeah, I loved and was intrigued by that tiny detail, Vickie. And such evocative writing.

    6. David Liu - I like death being an entitled prick! Death personified always makes a great character. Imagining him waltzing in and throwing his weight around.

  2. The land’s all gone, the bears are out, and a campfire builds itself. This land. Stragglers gather and reminisce about raisins and avocados. Some of our kind went down to Geneva but were never heard from again. Bless all of you, says the man on the hill, under an ominous sky that looks like a victim. You will be saved, he says. You will love each other.

    Those in the caravan to Helsinki laugh quietly and chew on their rolls to the rhythm of the wheels on a belligerent road.

    “Was that Jesus?” someone asks in Swedish.

    A quiet voice answers in English. “Makes sense Jesus would be a hitchhiker.”

    “I got a whole story about that.” No one recalls who said that or in what language they said it (but I know, and they weren’t from Scandinavia).

    How is it no one warned us, no one told us a guitar is not a penis but a womb? How born are we if we yet don’t know what bore us? How dark are our dreams, how cherished, and how black is our metal?

    That honeywoman struts her asymmetric gait, and we all wait, in case her flavour’s bleeding over the tops of everyone’s shoes. Normandy, you think. Alright. These pebble beaches under weighty skies, stale remnants of baguettes, jettisoned recyclables, and cooled moist condoms pushed forgotten into clefts. A whole fleet launched from here once and changed the course of the world. A millennium since, I still can’t let that Gallic swagger eclipse my Saxon stance. I can’t tell the stubble in the field from the stubble you sometimes grow in the sultry valley of your love. You know, while your grace may be saintlike, your ardor remains ghostlike.

    “Quick! There’s no line for the Ferris wheel.”

    Our time is now, it’s only now. Soon these frames will sway, broken and rusted, like limbs once bled by ancient butchers. The boardwalk will be splintered and rotted, foamy spumes reclaiming each kindled plank. A candy apple stick sucked dry and thrust in the eye of a life-size molded Elvis.

    The last gull wheeling on a gust, sent by a waning sky over a lifeless swell.

    “You totally should.”

    “What if I half did instead?”

    “Yeah, one of these days you might even manage funny.”

    “Ha ha!”

    The kindest we can ever do is tell someone we see their pain. Represent. I’ve never seen anyone not break down when someone speaks their suffering aloud. Tells them they are heard.

    Here, though, the last things to leave are deaf. Silent. Empty of applause. No one to remember or proclaim, the unheard flap of a ragged banner the achingly brief and only actual accolade.

    1. Thank you. What great word-pictures. I love the bleak, distorted mirror of an abandoned amusement park.

    2. I like the way the music imagery comes in in different shapes and forms, breaking up the landscape like the words that give a human impact. There's a heavy cadence to it, and silence despite words, like that's the overwhelming atmosphere. Lots of things are last or fading out, or seemingly not built to last long. And Jesus is also a hitchhiker - not staying too long... Lots of images and lots to think about.
      Favourite line: You know, while your grace may be saintlike, your ardor remains ghostlike.

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  4. Cat

    His head is but metal cuts,
    Stick whiskers bent by corrosion;
    Tiny pin eyes reveal no emotion,
    Tail never twitching an invitation,
    Stuck still, and ever expectant.

    I wait for him to run to me,
    But he never will, stuck rigid
    Motionless, his head ever turned
    Sideways, watching me blind,
    Expression tilted, rapt and quizzical.

    1. I hope it isn't presumptuous of me to say I think you've completely found your unique poetic voice these last few months.

    2. Thank you. That's not presumptuous at all. I think it's maybe becoming heavier - I think there was more humour in my past stuff! It needs a return! I'm never quite sure what my voice is! :)

  5. Part 1 (Part 2 in comments)

    I can tell with one sniff what kind of day it’s going to be. The apartment always smells of onions and corned beef and dill pickles, that’s a given when you grow up over the family delicatessen. Every article of clothing, every piece of typing paper smells like Brooklyn and always will, I’d imagine. But under that, the scent-fingers of wintergreen feather through. I know, lying in my bed and before I register that it’s raining that Mom has boiled up the homemade liniment that helps my zayda with his rheumatism. Always worse when it’s raining.

    I get up quickly and dress. A rainy Friday means I’ll be called on to do more. More lifting, more bending, more hours on my feet. I don’t mind. One thing my father always says about being born into a family business is true—it gets into your kishkas. It’s family, and you want to do for your family.

    A rainy day also means I’ll be doing more lunch deliveries, and seeing a certain young lady on my route, and I smile.

    “Hey, save me some of that, zeeskeit,” I hear my father say as I enter the kitchen. Another bellwether of the weather. My father’s own aches and pains worse at the end of the day, although he’ll never admit to it. Every line etched into his face tells a story. Today I read the one about a deli owner worried that he’ll run out of all his specialties the day before the Sabbath.

    “Don’t I always?” she says, turning back to the tiny stove in our tiny kitchen. Here, we don’t keep to the strict kosher law of not mixing meat and dairy that we do downstairs. Here, we can have milk for my father’s coffee. Here, we can cook with butter. The reasons are practical, my mother says. There’s no room for two sets of dishes, no outside eyes to tell our secrets. Only my cousin Artie knows, and he wouldn’t tell a soul.

    Downstairs, the morning is busy—women wanting to do their marketing and get home, the alter cockers lingering over their tea and breakfasts, grumbling to each other that they should have gone to Katz’s, at least there they could have had a schmear. Yet, each morning they return.

    My heart beats harder, it seems, with each tick of the clock leading up to lunchtime. The furrier is last on the route, owing to the geography of the Williamsburg streets and their preference for a later lunch hour for the employees. Pop won’t expect me back so soon.

    I pack up the truck, the side stenciled with “Abramowitz and Son,” and start my deliveries. Everything is going my way. Traffic, parking, virtually no mix-ups, and some nice tips for coming out in the rain. I barely have time to be nervous until I check my list and see one delivery left. When I park near the delivery entrance of the storied retailer that had draped Vanderbilts and Morgans and Astors with furs, I take a few deep breaths and slick a hand through my hair and dab my sweating face with a handkerchief. Then put on a smile.

    Laura Zimmerman answers the door. It could be my imagination, but she’s surrounded by a halo of light. Her soft curls shine as bright as her mink-brown eyes. “Eli!” My name on her tantalizing lips is a memory that follows me into my dreams. “Are we ever so pleased to see you! We’re absolutely ravenous.”

    1. Language is rich. Love the use of zeeskeit and kishkas (yuck) - I looked them up :) The Yiddish words have a soft sound. I like how they cook differently upstairs - it feels kind of rebellious! And the relationship building is rich and comfy and real. Sweet ending full of potential. She's a ray!

      I love this bit - it's funny and brilliant: Every line etched into his face tells a story. Today I read the one about a deli owner worried that he’ll run out of all his specialties the day before the Sabbath.

  6. Part 2

    She speaks and dresses like a cultured girl, a Fifth Avenue girl, even though she’s as Jewish as I am and her zayda came over on a boat just like mine. Well, probably not just like mine. Mine was in steerage, with his secondhand steamer trunk and ten dollars to his name—or so he says. I wipe my feet on the mat and enter, hoping no one notices my knees quaking, and set the box on the employee lunchroom table. I take a moment before turning to her. I know I should be going. Sometimes we chat, just for a little, until she touches my arm and says she doesn’t want to keep me. Artie says that’s a cultured girl’s way of telling you to scram.

    But today I have something to ask her. Something I’ve been rehearsing in my head for days and haven’t yet gotten up the nerve to say.

    I turn. I smile. She’s not there. Then she is. With a checkbook. I nearly forget she pays their tab on Fridays. “What is it this week?” she asks, pen poised. I see the check is already made out, signed by her father, leaving it to her to fill in the numbers. I mumble the amount.

    Her hands are grace. Her curls, swept forward as she bends her head, an untouchable enchanted forest. Then the perfume hits me, something expensive. My throat is dry and the words are gone.

    She tears the paper from the book, thrusts it toward me with a smile of accomplishment. “Sorry,” she says, a bit sheepish. “We have a big sale on.”

    Artie would say that means leave and leave now. I clear my throat. “Okay. Thanks.” I fumble the check into my pocket with the others. Her soft mink eyes say “Is there something else I can help you with?” I ignore what Artie might say that meant.

    “Do you… I mean… Maybe you’d…like to get a soda with me sometime? Go for a walk in Prospect Park? When it’s not raining, of course…”

    The shift in her eyes lands in my stomach like bad corned beef. “Oh… Well, I don’t believe my father would like that. And, well, frankly, Eli, you’re a very nice boy, and it’s flattering to be thought of that way, but I don’t see that kind of future with someone who smells like pickles and pastrami.” She brightened. “But thank you for lunch. See you Monday?”


    Fortunately the afternoon is busy. I lift and bend and carry.

    “Boychik,” my mother says, nodding me into a corner. Her eyes tell stories too. Of a mother who knows something’s wrong. She straightens my shirt collar. She smells like chicken soup. “Go up and check on your zayda, would you? He might like a little company.”

    I go, glad for the reprieve, glad even to rub wintergreen into my grandfather’s aching joints. But zayda is sleeping. I watch him in slumber. Remembering his stories. Of coming to America. Of opening the delicatessen. That’s the perfume I love best. Artie might say it was fate, me and the furrier’s daughter. “You do smell like pickles and pastrami,” he’ll say. “But maybe one day you’ll find a girl who likes that.”

    1. Oops, I stole your word, Teresa, in my comment under Dan's piece. I didn't mean to! But yes, this is evocative as well. And this time I meant to steal it. ;)

    2. Oh no, what a put down! She's horrid! Love how it started with 'one sniff and I know how the day'... and then the big rejection to pickles and pastrami!
      Like the details of how he thinks she's above him - the rich perfume made him falter in his confidence.

  7. Twitchy witchy

    Cinders didn’t care much for an uptight ball,
    Choosing to hang with the Big Bad Wolf,
    As they called him – those three little piggies
    Who hid, shaking in their little straw house.

    Funny how tattoos and a cigarette can give
    A cool wolf a bad name among some folks –
    And that house would blow if he had his way.

    The Wicked Witch of the West laughed hysterically,
    Catching a ride to the ball on the back of her broom,
    Wild tendrils of hair catching birds on the wing.

    She’d stop now and then to tie up the innocent
    With her red, stripy stockings, her hooked nose
    Poking into everybody’s business unwanted,
    Ever seeking a little seed, to disturb and water
    Until it became a destructive, furtive force.

    Her jaunty cackles roused the monkeys baring
    Their wide pink bottoms in placid obedience,
    Trotting gormlessly behind, nodding to everything
    She said in making her grand witchy entrance.

    Back at the castle, Cinders tends and mends,
    Sweeps the last of the ancient cobwebs away,
    Sending sticky spiders scuttling to each and every
    Corner, seals the bolts and exits the back door
    Into the melting sun and wildflower streaks,
    The forest here long laid bare by Sleeping Beauty’s
    New in-laws, through which a golden lane wound.

    “So you didn’t want to go to the ball, really?”
    The Big Bad Wolf asked, clipping a troubling claw.
    Cinders thought for the briefest of seconds.
    “No,” she said firmly. “I know who I am.
    I don’t fit in with my sisters, and I’ll never win.”

    The Big Bad Wolf nodded, full knowing the sting of
    Stigma personified. Taking Cinders’ arm, he led the way
    Up the yellow brick road and threw a bean to the sky,
    Sprouting an ever-twisting beanstalk in their wake.

  8. Malcolm

    It all comes down to you,
    And a number, often forgotten,
    Ever revised.

    But you brought it along,
    Paid for its keep, treasured it,
    Almost fed it like a pet.

    Sucking your hopes and breaking your

    It strayed unpaid while you
    Cowed and counted.

    A dollar for your dreams?

    Old man, can you not afford to pay now?

    I can dispel these inadequacies,
    Promise a return on your investment ¬–
    The sky’s the limit, someone said,
    But Death won’t forsake you in the end.

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  10. Stone prisons

    Stone prisons, reactions of the mind
    To a sense of inaction, inadequacy;
    The rush long gone, sensation shunted.

    I feel your frustration perforating your skin.

    Do you know me now? Can you sense me?
    You carry him lost like missing data.

    Tie a white ribbon where he might hear you,
    Beckon him forth to betray himself.

    I cannot dare you; only you can travel.

    To his own eyes, you are blind;
    In his mind, he long forgot to remember you.

    These words balance tricky, evaporating,
    Struck on the wind, a discordant chord


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