Thursday, December 5, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

St. Louis, 1983, repentant.

You are the birth of a grave disaster, lost in dark night, cast in plaster

Your skin is smooth, reptilian

I want to know your stretchmarked stories

I bet you have a million

Relax, and let the blackness in

Ochre evening breaks in the folds of your peasant voice

You are insignificant like me

Let’s be insignificant together

Friends, fair weather

Let me touch your auburn hair

Smell the perfume you lay upon your breast

Slit your throat with an old straight razor

Let gravity do the rest

I want to sing in the purest voice

I want truth, so I can beat it to death, senseless

Leave it gasping, dying

If you’re not bleeding

You’re not trying

I will live forever in every song

Where heartbreak drips through stiletto slits

Come, sit down and put up your feet

I’ll tell you the story, and keep it brief

Slipping past the lion’s teeth

Quintessential misery


  1. My God, that's beautiful. And you stick the landing with those last two lines.

    1. Is it related to this?

    2. Nope! Just picked a city/year.

    3. Great clipping rhythm. Love it. If you're not bleeding, you're not trying!

  2. His name is Arrow and he is obsessed with history.

    At the moment he is cataloging my body with an extraordinarily cold finger.

    “What’s this one?” he asks about the dolphin tattoo on my hip.

    “That’s for my time on a submarine.”

    “Where did you get this scar?”

    “An accident.” I hope he doesn’t ask more.

    There is quiet in the room, and I can hear his breathing and my own breathing, too. It is early morning, and the sky is changing colors, so the room looks pink. I turn my head to look in his eyes.

    “Why do they call you Arrow?”

    “It’s an old family name.”

    “Native American?” I look at him in a new way. He is blond, and blue eyes.

    “I was adopted.” His finger has stopped tracing lines on my body. I think he’s hoping I don’t ask more. Two can have secrets.

    “What do you want to do today?” he asks, confirming that I’ve asked enough.

    “Get to know you better.”

    “That sounds serious.”

    “Is that okay?”

    He looks at the ceiling, and then back at me. “I’d like that.”

    Last night, at the bar, he had a faraway look that attracted me to him. Anyone else would think he was being arrogant. Bored, maybe. I thought he was lonesome. So I said hi. And he smiled at me.

    “I’d like to take you somewhere. Somewhere that means something to me.” And I hug him.

    This was going to be either the right move or a big mistake. Gut instinct had gotten me this far.

    We shower. Together. Slowly. It’s been a long time since I’ve shampooed someone else’s hair. Longer still since I’ve toweled a man dry.

    By the time we get outside, the sun is warm.

    “Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”

    “You don’t like surprises?”

    His pause answers for him.

    “Sorry. I don’t mean to be mysterious. It’s not far.”

    The gate to the cemetery is open. If it had been closed, we would have climbed the fence.

    He looks at me, trying to read my face. I look down, trying to make my face unreadable.

    It is winter, and the path to the grave is covered in pristine snow. As the sun warms the ground, the snow turns to slush and our feet make slushing sounds.

    And we reach our destination. A simple marker. I brush the snow off, so Arrow can read the name.

    He says it aloud. “Michael J. Archer.”

    “He was my first boyfriend.”

    Arrow has the gift of knowing when silence is right. He waits for me to continue.

    “It was late at night. We were coming out of a bar.”

    He waits still.

    “They were waiting for us. With baseball bats. Ironic. Mike loved baseball.” I can feel a tear threatening to leave my eye. I fight it back.

    “The scar?” he whispers.

    I nod.

    His hand finds the small of my back. He just rests it there, supporting me, but not pushing, not rubbing. I marvel that his hand can be so warm, when his fingers had been so cold.

    “He never woke up. He just died the next day. Never heard me tell him how much I loved him.”

    The tear wins, and rolls down my cheek.

    “Strange first date. Sorry.”

    His other hand finds mine. And it feels right, the way our hands fit together.

    “Anyway, you like history, and here’s a big part of mine.”

    Now his hand is on my neck, and he pulls me to his shoulder.

    “When you told me your name, it felt like... this is going to sound weird.”

    He makes a sound, kind of a cooing sound, that lets me know it’s okay to go on.

    “I think you’re sort of a gift from him. An arrow sent by an archer.”

    He laughs, a small laugh, but a laugh, and I laugh, too.

    We hold each other there, in front of Michael’s grave, and I know that it’s more than our hands that fit together.

    The snow is gone when we leave the cemetery, and it is not only the sunshine that makes me feel warm.

    1. Ahhhh. Sweet and sad, and emotive. Love the arrow idea and how that is extended. And the little details of their intimacy

    2. I didn't make the connection at first. This is a beautiful dance around a familiar theme, my friend.

    3. Vulnerability, predetermined, and poetry all in one makes this work so well for me: "If it had been closed we would have climbed he fence."

  3. They're Only Words

    I’ve scattered letters
    all over this page,
    then whitewashed them away
    for over an hour now.
    It’s not that I can’t find
    the words to write for you.
    I just cannot capture the right ones.
    Isn’t that a silly thing
    about those who sometimes
    consider themselves poets?
    We’re hardly ever quite satisfied
    with the words we choose
    to express what we’re feeling,
    especially when what we’re feeling
    means so much we try to be perfect.
    Yet I could make up words
    and place them in a certain context
    and you’d still be able
    to blazoodle them.
    We never did really blazdoodle
    one another, did we?
    Oh, I’m sure you thought you might,
    as did I. But we were
    just casting words at one another.
    I as bait and you as defense.
    Neither of us truly succeeded
    in our aims, which is just fine,
    since a me and a you will never
    blazdoodle one another.
    But we sure have had a hell of a time
    trying, prying, lying, crying and

    1. Blazdoodle - I like the made-up wordery and idea of the letters walking around

    2. I agree. I think this piece is really strong and understated. One thing: Maybe a different fake work that doesn't look as much like bamboozle?

  4. “Think she’ll answer?”

    “I don’t know. It’s been so long since we talked. At least with a civil tone.”

    “Then why the hell are you calling her in the first place?”

    “To hear her voice again, I guess.”

    “A voice you haven’t heard in…”

    “Fifteen years or so.”

    “Lotta things can change in fifteen years.”

    “Or so.”

    “Yeah. Like maybe she won’t recognize your name, let alone your voice.”

    “Sometimes you just have to take the leap.”

    “And all this leaping and listening serves what purpose?”


    “Closure of something for which there never was an open-sure.”

    “That’s because I never tried knocking.”

    “Oh, is that what they called it in the 90s?”

    “Shut up. I’m serious. I never admitted my, my…”

    “Infatuation? Obsession? Hallucination?”

    “You can always leave, you know. You’re not helping my anxiety about this one bit.”

    “And rightly so. Do you seriously believe that a woman you knew as barely a friend will be interested in talking to you for the first time in fifteen years, let alone being open to your ‘knocking’ her?”

    “No. I don’t. But if I don’t try, even just saying hi, I’ll never have that moment like at the near end of ‘Love, Actually.’ You know, when Keira Knightley comes running out of her house, with her husband — Chiwetel Ejiofor no less — back inside waiting for her, to chase after Andrew Lincoln, since he professed his pretty much undying love for her.”

    “Yeah, and she kissed him and gave him a sigh and a look like, ‘too late, but maybe if you tried hitting on me before MY HUSBAND did, I’d have been down with you being the male half of this It Couple in hip London circles. So maybe…’ Is that what you want?”

    “Well, maybe. But actually, I’d be happy with what happens next.”

    “Which was?”

    “He walks away from his great love feeling somewhat like he’s found some kind of closure. And he says what I want to feel, one way or another.”

    “I repeat: Which was?”

    “He says, ‘Enough. Enough now.’ I just want…enough.”

    1. That's one of my favourite scenes in Love Actually. Love and loss, and whether to speak or not, whether to risk embarrassment and hurt or stay forever silent. The great conundrum

    2. Never seen it, but I dig this scene a lot. Felt locked and dialed in at the end.

  5. He threads another wire through the marionette’s flesh, pulling it tight. He attaches it to one of the crosspieces and raises them both, letting the puppet dangle below the control bars. It hangs heavily, more a model than the living creature it’s meant to be. He hasn’t practiced enough, and I feel the need to reach out and take over the control of the subject myself. Give him direction. Teach by example.

    But he needs to learn. I was like him once and my mentor exercised control over himself then, watching me fumbling with the articulations of my own doll, standing in silence as I struggled to make it look as though it was walking for itself. I can’t believe I was ever as clumsy as this boy is now, but I may have been. My perspective has changed and today I’m the one in the audience, witnessing his performance.

    “I don’t know if I can handle two controllers. Are you sure you can’t operate one while I do the other? Let me perfect my coordination with one hand at a time before doing both together?”

    I shake my head. The Puppeteers' Credo forbids that I speak or do anything to assist. He must learn it for himself while I watch. Suffer the anxiety of knowing he is being judged and still succeed.

    The marionette begins to bleed, fat drops spattering heavily onto the ground. The anaesthetic will wear off soon and his task will get much harder.

    1. Oooh that's interesting. I didn't see that coming. Very macabre and effective

    2. I saw it coming you sick bastard, but then again, I'm a sick bastard. I like it this way, and I would have liked it if it had turned our innocent

    3. Yeah, I saw it coming too. Have missed you Mark, and your unending dark complications.

  6. I loved my Grandpas, both of them, but this is about my father’s father.

    I was maybe three years old. I was too young to understand that the smell on his breath was whiskey. I had not yet experienced the cruelty that poured from the bottle into his mouth and rotted his soul.

    He lived downstairs, and Grandma lived upstairs. There was no running water in their house. Every day they would fill two buckets with water from the well, and they used that water for cooking and cleaning. The two buckets were kept in a room they called “the porch,” even though it was fully enclosed. It was that room that had the stairs that led to the basement where he lived.

    When my grandparents fought, they would go for weeks without speaking, but they had to face each other when they needed water, and it was always Grandpa who brought the water in.

    The stairwell acted as an intercom, too. They both had good strong German voices that would carry for a country mile, especially when they shouted.

    It was the day of Christmas Eve when we visited. Grandma had made cookies and popcorn balls for us kids. Grandma had good intentions when it came to us kids, but the popcorn balls were colorless and hard, and the cookies were flat and had raisins, not chocolate chips. With all the diplomacy of a child, I told her so. As I saw her jaw drop, I heard my grandfather’s shout from the basement.

    He didn’t have many teeth left, and my name always sounded funny when he said it, but I knew this was a Christmas miracle in the making, and that I might miss a spanking because of his call.

    I raced from Grandma’s kitchen, through the porch, past the buckets of water, and down the rickety steps. There, at the foot of the stairs, he waited.

    “Come sit with me. I got you a Christmas present.”

    And so I did. He lifted me to his lap, and he rocked us both in his rocking chair.

    “Been a good boy this year?”

    I assured him I had, for I knew only good boys got presents.

    “Like playing in the snow?”

    And of course I did.

    He reached down and brought up a small brown paper bag. “This is for you.”

    I opened the bag, and inside were two mittens, not made of cloth or knitted like the ones I had, but ones made of reddish-orange vinyl, but with a soft lining.

    “They’ll keep your hands from getting wet.”

    “Thank you, Grandpa.”

    He set me down as Grandma called me from upstairs. I have no idea what made me do it, but I kissed him on the cheek, and I waited for him to smile.

    And he did smile. One of the only smiles I remember him wearing in the eleven years I knew him.

    I didn’t get a spanking from Grandma, either.

    It was a good Christmas.

    1. I love this. Especially the water idea and it forcing them to meet and communicate. Such a small detail with big meaning, and really works. The characterisation is great

    2. Also sounds genuinely a kid's perspective

    3. I know someone who lived a life with grandparents in the same house with led different/separate lives. You did a wonderful job painting this picture and using the kid as the tether between them.

  7. Rail sparks

    We talk in time of sober news,
    Colours fleshed out from the sun.
    Paired in vases, clipped tulips stand
    To attention, listening, not judging,
    I decide. Do they find us wanting,
    Still pretending to be bold?

    They are as we were in our youth,
    Petal-soft, unwrinkled, their fresh
    Scent of positivity taking the room.
    They nod in the summer breeze,
    Offering their sweet pollen with a
    Suggestiveness only known to bees.

    Here are the places where we walk,
    The spaces abandoned by walkers,
    Who circled in and out before us.
    Their footprints press into this earth
    Like restless roots, seeking to delve
    In deep, seeking a key to grounding.

    The memory twitches back and forth.
    It’s made for them to breathe and shout,
    Petals. Words. Words are everything.
    They stand waiting for an explanation.

    This metal lung chugs lonely in the dark,
    Electric sparks dance upon wet rails,
    Flicker, trigger, across this sombre field,
    Wheels creaking in a slow-drawn wind.

    We scatter our light in suitcases
    For our neighbours to see and wonder,
    To investigate whether these things fit,
    And check if we were ever really here.

    Travelling lightly, the velvet tulips breathe,
    Not knowing where our wanderlust shall go.

    1. Wow... this is gorgeous... velvet tulips, the metal lung metaphor for the subway... the petals. Just lovely.

    2. Agreed. I wish I could write pretty poetry

    3. I can do dark and depressing too! Lol

  8. My favorite stanza begins: "We scatter our lignt in suitcases." Somehow so evocative and visual simultaneously.


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