Thursday, May 21, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Listen to the night song, creeping

Dark shapes moving on gentle breezes

This is the promise, given

You will die here

And tomorrow, when yesterday

Roars into your ears

Like an angry child

And red-faced guardians abound

You will sit here, by the fireside

Hearing the new sounds

The fat man is coming, smelling blood

You are a cheap suit on a mannequin

You are propped up on poison

You are a disappointment, and you stink of sadness

You are the damsel who seeks out distress

You are twisted human longing,

and the world has heard your screams.


  1. Awesome rage... "damsel who seeks out distress" is perfect, even as the poem feels as if it is addressed to a male... well done!

    1. Yes, rage against the machine, and The Man, and the dying of the light!

    2. Oh, I love this. Especially the last few lines. "You are the damsel who seeks out distress." Indeed, perfect.

    3. you know? It's great poetry all by itself.But I swear, if it was the intro to a video game? Right now? I would SO play that!

    4. I want to see more Dan Mader poetry. This is so good.

  2. Flash!

    A thousand one.
    A thousand two.
    A thousand three.
    A thousand four.
    A thousand five.


    The lightning was a mile away. His retinas retained its image in purple. It was not cloud-to-cloud, but cloud-to-ground, and he was on a mountain. Old Baldy. Named for its lack of trees, of course. Even scrunched down, he was the highest point for a hundred yards.

    He scrabbled downslope about fifty yards before the next strike. Only a half mile away now.

    Stupid. He should have checked the weather forecast. He should have stayed home.

    The sky lit and grumbled, almost immediately and almost directly above him.

    It all made sense, back at home. Prove to himself and maybe his ex, what a manly man he was. Climb a mountain. Like he did when he was in his twenties.

    He was two times twenty now, and his knees and back were punishing him for his insolence. And, he thought wryly, so were the gods.

    His eyes followed the slim white fingers of lightning reach down to the ground from the heavens. The thunder was deafening.

    And in the way of spring lightning storms on the mountains, it stopped as quickly as it began. Cold rain pelted his now bald head. Some sleet.

    And an epiphany: He had no need to prove anything to anyone. Forty years of living, of laughing, of loving, well, if that hadn’t proved enough, nothing would.

    He sat on a small boulder, closed his eyes, and let the raindrops wash the fear and arrogance from his body and his soul.

    The gods smiled down smugly, and moved the storm to the next mountain, to the next man needing a lesson.

    1. So beautiful. The storm is wonderfully vivid. And a great lesson.

    2. I love how this goes from tension to a kind of gentle acceptance, exactly mimicking the storm while subverting reader expectations.

  3. "Lockdown Tales"

    Grey skies and this endless loneliness and the mad subliminal chatter of our frightened species are wrapping me in a blanket woven by a slow beast named despondence. Friends who are suffering, everywhere, all around. I feel like the jaundiced eye of a human hurricane of pain. My calf seized today as I walked the streets, so I lurched like something contemplating raw brains, and I passed a store that blared: BUY SELL PAWN and I read it as HI, HELL SPAWN. On the way home, I had the radio in my car tuned to Jack FM, and I noticed that BTO's "Taking Care of Business" is almost the same song as "Keep on Rock'n Me, Baby" by the Steve Miller Band. Classic rock is weird. Or maybe it's me. I kept my eyes level, so no one knew I was screaming behind my mask.


    He is in the living room pretending to watch that dumb tiger show on Netflix but I know he isn’t really watching as he’s waiting for me to say something he will decide is stupid or disrespectful to him so he can hurl a pint glass at me or worse get up and come at me again even though he said he was sorry last time the time when he broke my nose which still hurts and I can barely breathe through it and yet if I go out on the balcony for air he’ll notice me again and plot something else if only out of boredom because he isn’t going to get better or kinder and oh my god what will I do I haven’t even told him about the baby bump which he just assumes is my new quarantine weight and what will set him off next I know what will set him off as he already said he’d rather kill me than be a father as his dad was a total cocksucker and this life is getting so dark and scary.


    Outside, the bat is tracing a toddler scribble in the waning light. Felipe is an old man and it takes him time and effort to move from the window, put on his shoes, and shuffle outside to the step so he can lower his creaking frame and try to read the story of the bat. His face is a landscape of fissures, but an uneven smile cuts across those deep lines when the bat flits close enough to raise a few cottony wisps of Felipe’s remaining hair.

    “You keep on doing that,” he croaks, and then turns to add an aside to María, something like, “See that crazy little sonofoabitch? He’s enjoying his damn self.”

    But he’s forgotten again. María isn’t there, and Felipe’s smile withers on the rough bark of his face.

    The men in the baggy white suits took her days ago and reassured him she’d be cared for, but Felipe can’t forget how her whole chest seemed to clutch at the air for sustenance, how panicked her dark brown eyes were, locked on his, deep in their folds of skin like besieged fortresses.

    Was she asking him then and is she asking him even now to defy them?

    The bat loops and swoops and once again almost brushes him. Felipe wishes he could move like that: abrupt, like a hot needle, stitching the wounds of the world.

    Night is coming, they won’t let him see María, and suddenly, as the bat shifts course in the cooling air, he is gut-deep afraid like he’s never been.

    1. Dude, you continue to kill me. "Screaming behind my mask" is so great on many levels. Love this sentence: "Felipe wishes he could move like that: abrupt, like a hot needle, stitching the wounds of the world." The second bit with the one long sentence works so well.

    2. I swear I commented on this! I take Door Number Three! Wow! The Ferrari for the win!

  4. Thunder

    A crack in the darkening,
    The Nimbus speak in roars
    Rolling to suffocate the skies.

    Lightning punches in forks
    Of white, rain cascading,
    Its torrent sweeping dirt scrawls.

    This vivid, livid power strike
    In humid arms. Dank breath,
    Smoking, crashing, water lashing
    The dust bowl, sparking thunder.

    1. So many great pictures. I love "Lightning punches in forks.."

    2. Power strike in humid arms. It's storming here as I comment.Some embrace, huh?

    3. It's visceral. I like the words Laurie quoted, plus the muscularity of "Its torrent sweeping dirt scrawls."

  5. Glide

    We glide out on the highs,
    Purple mountainside our guide
    Over rivulets and patchworks of
    Farmland sewn with wildflowers.

    We soar as dragons once did
    In fairytales and folklore,
    Trusting our wings to immortality,
    Steering a distance from the sun.

    We float, soar, slide, riding the air
    Without machine or feathers,
    Let loose in the stratus wisps,
    Rising and circling in a freefall.

    We choose a life amongst eagles,
    Surfing gusty squalls like waves.
    Our boards are invisible lifelines
    Carrying us like kites without strings.

  6. Stairway to Nowhere...

    "How about here?" Simon said. "Maybe if you crouch, so the sun creates a halo effect through my hair? I can gaze off toward those ruins over there and focus on my irritable bowel. The fans used to love it when I did that. I was voted 'best bouffant and frown in a prearranged photo-shoot', in 1974, I'll have you know. That's something you never lose; you ask Grant!"

    "I hardly think he'll be in any position to corroborate that," the photographer replied, rechecking his light. "He died three years ago; don't you remember? You were one of the coffin-bearers, you and the other three from the band."

    "Yes, that was a night. We must have drunk the home counties dry that weekend. He was a noxious shit at the best of times, but he sure knew how to party. Even though he never had any readies to hand when it was his turn to buy a round. But that's agents for you; they're never happier than when somebody else is paying."

    "So, anyway...back to today. You needed some photos. Is there any particular theme you were hoping to capture? Any story you need me to tell? Or is there a coherent thread through your recent studio work I could incorporate?"

    Simon looked blank for a moment, then shrugged when his memory returned. "I was just sitting for most of that time. Dreaming, you know? Now, tell me, I'm not the one paying for this, am I?"

    1. Some of these glimpses you write are is if we briefly tune into a channel where we see a moment in someone's actual life, then drift away again.

  7. You can’t watch the news. You can’t read the paper. The crawl, the front page list the dead, every morning, like baseball scores. For some in the media, it’s become sport. Breathless reportage from the bland blonds on the TV screen, and it reminds you of that long-ago song lyric, “it’s interesting when people die, we want dirty laundry…” Your own laundry leans over the basket in an accusatory pile. There’s a poem in the sweaty T-shirts and mildewing towels, the language of everyday life carrying on no matter what. You could die at your kitchen table, slumped over your fourth or fifth cup of increasingly weak coffee lightened with an off-brand flammable creamer, all that was available at the time, and mother nature will do her unceasing work. Decay. Microbes. Tree roots upending the foundation of the house. The neighbor’s cat eating your face. You know the danger in fanning the flames of those thoughts, and double-check that you’ve taken that morning’s dose of happy pills. Yes. Tuesday’s slot is empty. Or is it Thursday. You wonder if there’s an app for that. One that will wake you with the time, day of the week, the year, a reminder to do the laundry or refill your prescriptions or make sure you’re still breathing. “If you can no longer remember your password, press one…if you need CPR, press two…if you need a hug, I’m sorry, due to these uncertain times, that service is no longer available.”

    You regret the argument. The last one, the one that made her leave. Not like the other times, with just her phone and keys, slinking back later, tearful apologies, the silent, careful lovemaking like you’re both made of spun sugar and dynamite. This was different. This involved shoving random clothing into a bag, doors closing with a quiet finality, all your calls ignored until you gave up trying. For a few days you sat stunned, okay, possibly drunk, and when that wore off, about a week into the stay-at-home order, the loneliness crept in. Again the TV taunted you, the Zoom videos of families quarantined together, singing Disney songs, making ink stamps out of potatoes, baking loaves of bread or churning butter like we’re all pioneers or something. But the silence is worse. The devil’s playground, paraphrasing your late, churchgoing mother. You dare to try it, to invite the demon in. A minute, to start. Then two. Then five. Then fifteen.

    It doesn’t kill you.

    And in that last silence, eyes closed and doing a meditative breathing technique you learned on YouTube, you trace the razor’s edge between solitude and loneliness. When you return to your body, you delete her from your phone. Maybe it’s for the best. Or maybe you’re just telling yourself that to make it through the next minute, hour, day. Maybe you’d been lonely with her for a while, but you never really noticed because you were always together. Whatever. You convince yourself that it’s better to be alone than to want to be with someone for the wrong reasons. Like having someone to sing Disney songs with on Zoom videos.

    Then you do the laundry. It’s time.

    1. So much good here. "Spun sugar and dynamite," all the small details that accumulate into real emotion, "the razor’s edge between solitude and loneliness." And that lovely understated last line.

  8. You paint a darned good portrait of a lot of reality, there. I feels it big time.

  9. Like Schroedinger's girlfriend, I am and am not
    Sure of what I am, who I am, what I've got
    Time is a river, I go with the flow
    Or maybe it's a rubber band, what do I know?
    Some days last forever, some gone in a blink
    Some thief stole the weekend before I could think
    Poor Prufrock was stuck with a coffee spoon to measure his life while his dreams came and went, making conversation in all those other rooms
    While mine is measured in recipes and prophecies of doom
    How many joints the boys are blowing out on the stoop.
    I wanna bust out on a road trip
    Or finish what I start
    I want to search for meaning, act from the heart
    But for now, I'll take it slowly
    Keep pushing back the fear.
    Even though sometimes I break the rules
    And touch my face
    Just to make sure I'm here.

    1. All about last lines this week! I love yours because it caught me off-guard in its poignance.

  10. The wind rises and then fails. His rib-cage creaks loudly when he stirs. He feels the urge to dissolve into Sunday, even though it passed hours ago. The voice of a crying child reaches out to him across the gulf of peacefulness, pushing aside the sting of petroleum and the umami of meat, his neighbour's barbecue issuing clouds of black smoke as it burns unheeded, its attendants sleeping off their alcoholic excess. He rubs his eyes and thinks of pollen, of the tablets he has to take. He is still but he is no longer at ease. It's a shared day among the people in a land where no-one cares. It's England. It's 2020. And everyone's alone.

    1. I almost missed this one, but I'm glad I didn't. It's suffused with genuine unease and sadness.


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