Friday, January 22, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

The wind is a grey sponge sitting on the straight. Mt. Diablo hides underneath the sagging apron, not scared. Never scared. You know what’s in them thar hills. Every time the wind blows, it pulls a few threads with it, and rain drops in the Central Valley, and, if Steinbeck was still alive, he would call it good. The small boats pull stripers and sturgeon, and sometimes there’s a kind of stillness that only lasts a moment. But you end up remembering it for years. And the smell of rich earth and woodsmoke dances in the updrafts. Vultures circle and we smile at them, feeling optimistic. There is nothing wrong, no sound that the fog can’t muffle. You can get lost in it. And you probably should.


  1. Love the poetic use of language, Dan. Beautiful metaphoric descriptives. atmospheric and well nigh spiritual.

    1. Lovely lyrical stuff, my brother. Got a Cannery Row vibe, but really an overall California vibe. I love the still moment that somehow lasts for years.

    2. That's so beautiful. Really tasty words and images. Especially love that last couple of lines.

  2. The kids don’t want to hear about it, can’t believe it, that we almost lost everything, that we almost became like those countries they make fun of in those old movies. You know the ones—crazy tinpot dictators in military bling surrounded by piles of cocaine and women in bikinis. Or the real ones the refugees speak of – when they’re no longer afraid of speaking.

    They don’t know how close we were, and how good they have it now. And even so, they just want to strap into their virtual reality suits and disappear.

    To where, he doesn’t know, because he’s never had the nerve to try. A while back his grandkids bought him one of those contraptions, and he laughed, and his daughter laughed, and the kids laughed, and after they went home he exchanged it for an air fryer and never spoke of it again.

    But he’s been reading lately. They have new, customizable programs now, let you do damn near anything with those suits. Ski the Alps. Fly over the ocean. Visit days gone by. Any time period in history. Where would he go? Nowhere fancy. Maybe return to the old times, before we knew bad things could happen, just bathe in the innocence, the owl hoots and cicadas that greeted him on summer afternoons when he went fishing. He knew where his wife would have wanted to visit. They often talked of such, sitting on the porch at night, if they had a time machine that could go anywhere.

    She’d go to Ancient Egypt and meet Cleopatra. Paris in the Roaring Twenties, dance like Josephine Baker. Bathe in the jazz notes of the Harlem Renaissance.

    How she went on. How she lit up when she dreamed like that.

    He misses her on nights like this. Sitting alone on that porch swing. Could be if those suits let you go anywhere, maybe you could visit anyone you wanted. Maybe he could visit her. Maybe he’d get himself one of those suits after all.

    1. Evocative and heartfelt, but that single-line penultimate paragraph gave me such an ache in my own heart.

    2. Yeah, I agree. This is potent and powerful. The cicadas zoomed me right in there. <3

  3. We used to walk along this shore, telling secrets and lies even we liars believed.

    During our December walks, we’d watch Winter grow its skin across the pond, pressing flat the rippling flashes that’d catch your eye and pass its attention to the ones next to it. And they, in turn, to their neighbors, echoing it all back again.

    When the snow begins falling, light as a lover’s touch, it covers the sheet of ice with lace, asking us to guess if we could trust it to support us if we dared step upon it together.

    “C’mon,” you tease me as I tap on the ice with my foot, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Haven’t you ever taken a chance in your life?”

    I tell you I’m taking a chance right now. To which you repy, “No you’re not. And believe me, you won’t fall.”

    I think you mean fall through the ice. I think of it as falling another way you’d never worry about, but I do. And want to.
    I want to know what those others knew, the hidden knowledge I’d only imagined. I want to feel the pleasure of you others felt, but fear to take that step. Walk after walk, winter after winter.

    “C’mon, take my hand,” you say and I finally feel your warmth on my skin. You pull me toward you and grasp my arm as if we’re a couple strolling along the edge of the ice-covered pond. But I know we’re really just two people sharing the same path, the same conversation, the same lies.

    “All right,” you say, “I’m going to walk you out a bit and you go the rest of the way.”

    “No, I’d prefer if we just walk along like this,” I say and put my hand over yours as you squeeze my arm. The wind blows the snow across the ice, some ghostly skater carving edges like your fingernails are carving little moons into my hand.

    You pull me closer and lean in to give me a kiss, your lips warm, your cheek cold, eyelashes netted with snowflakes, the sound snatched by the wind whooshing by my ears.

    “Would you do it for me? For a real kiss?” you say, gazing into my eyes with an eagerness you’ve never offered me. And I’m not sure what beckons me more, the ice, those snow-laced eyes, tempting lips, or my heart.

    “I’ll go with you. I promise. I just want to see you take a chance for once. Sometimes the lessons we learn from them can last a lifetime.”

    I want to do this so much. Not just because of the prize I might win upon completion of this dare, but also because I need to know what stops me. Always stops me.

    “Okay, but I need some more incentive,” I say, suddenly demonstrating more nerve than I had in years.

    “C’mere, you,” you say and mush your mouth to mine with a little lick of my lip on the way back into a smile I’m afraid will melt the ice before I get my chance to walk my way to the paradise I think you’re offering.

    “Okay, let’s go. I’m getting kinda excited about this,” you say, grasping my arm again.

    You tap the ice and say, “Nothing to worry about. And if you’re still nervous, just close your eyes and I’ll walk you out.”

    “Maybe if I could have just a little more of that warm courage you’re dispensing, I wouldn’t be so…you know,” I say with fear and lust battling in my gut like glandular gladiators.

    “Close your eyes, silly,” you say and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek, squeezing me so close I almost can’t catch my breath.

    And then you drop your arms away, leaving me with the echo of that kiss ringing in my head.

    “Just a couple more steps, love. I’m waiting right here for you.”
    I turn and see you standing closer to the bank now. Your face impassive, like a marble Madonna, not giving away any thought, desire, care. Just…waiting.

    I still can hear your kiss and the sound such a long kiss makes, soft, warm and wet, a constricted inhalation, sucking in the best of life, giving back such gratification. What a sweet memory.

    That is until I remember that’s also the sound ice makes as it rips open, sharp and cold, making one gasp, sucking him under, submerged, waking him to the knowledge almost no one else knows. What’s going on beneath that cold white facade? Now I know. Now I know it all.

    “You’re welcome,” I think I hear.

    No, love, it was my pleasure.

    1. I love the way this piece evolves from contemplative and yearning to disquieting and alarming. The second person works so well here. A constructive observation: it might be me misreading, but the brief shift to third person ("...sucking him under, submerged, waking him...") threw me out at a moment I really wanted to stay in.

    2. Thanks, David. This is the first prose I've been able to write in a very long time. By the time I was almost home with this piece, I noticed it was kinda in second person. (Don't make it easy on yourself, Joe.) I saw that "him" as well. In my posted version, I changed it to "one." Thanks you, sir.

    3. I love the changes in tone and all the great images, of the ripply way the ice freezes, love the tension and that kiss. So evocative. You really drew me in and then bam! with that ending.

    4. You're absolutely welcome, my friend. I really love this piece.

    5. I can't really add anything, but I love this, too. Super lyrical!

  4. Smoothing Away the Eldersnow

    The flurries fall,
    filtering through empty trees,
    to touch the coarse eldersnow,
    hardened by mid-winter
    sun and raw winds.
    The jet stream jetsam shifts
    from west to north on its path
    to due south on the map
    of my window frame.
    Drifting through maples and oaks,
    I notice there are no birds
    upon the branches,
    to catch those frosty feathers
    upon their own.
    Even the crows are absent,
    their nails-on-chalkboard voices
    silent against slate clouds;
    so silent I can hear
    this whooshing flock whisper,
    “We’ll take it from here,”
    as it smooths away the crusty
    old regime.

  5. “All things said and not said, you’ll likely wish you’d never met me on this or any other road.”

    “But our meeting made a tale, at least.”

    “A tale to be ashamed of.”

    “For you, perhaps.”

    “I was never looking for you at all. I was searching for someone I lost.”

    “Way it goes sometimes.”

    I met Nick Cave up in the clouds, and he spoke to me. The birds themselves paused to listen. He tried his very best to let us know how grief can be outrun, but I don’t think we or the birds fully heard. It’s a lifelong thing and honestly, honey, it’s a struggle.

    Another way to say it is the torch that through the blue dream fires the cosmos. Though at this point, that just feels like parody. Who doesn’t love a Dylan cover?

    Look. You met me. Or maybe I met you. We were lone snake trails in the dust of other people’s befuddlement before they could admit we’d utterly fucked them. Our dry sinuous curves were never meant to meet. But they did, and here we are. You are the flashback on my stuttering film reel; I am the static on your sputtering radio.

    For as long as there was a stage, we danced. And did we ever dance.

    Glimmering cauldron howls in the treetops, I cranked up Ulver for our eldritch frolic, gyrating to the slink of wolves, the glamor of witches, and the yowl of the wildest woods. Black, blacker, blackest metal.

    Dreams: electric capillaries flash on a cobalt horizon. I think of X-rays and remember all of our last days. Hallucinogenic black spiders in a speakeasy. Aiming straight for the eyes. But dammit, at least you’ll open your hellacious eyes.

    Then winter. Then the remains of winter. Then a guarded breath as we dared to dream of one more spring. Sporadic remnants of old snow, greyed by road dirt, the scattered bones of long absent giants.

    And memories. We looked to windward as we traversed the canyon, and we saw the lone bison, the big old front-loaded fuck, snorting and steaming in the diminishing gold of the air, mucus streamers flung like molten flags. A giant knot of this dirty-sweet earth’s best fuckery and love. A shaggy fist given life.


    I’m near done with words; luckily this doesn’t need words.

    I saw in you a tiny flickering beacon, and I went to you for warmth.

    You are a woman looking for peace and endlessly, maddeningly doomed to stumble on trouble. Something has been coming for you all your life. Now it’s almost here.

    And me? My life is a rusted sword blunted on the cold diamonds of my damnable dreams.

    We are—literally, tragically, hilariously—each other’s just deserts.

    1. Wow, D. You outdid yourself here. I love the rolling, building churn of it. Like being caught in riptide.

  6. I haven't posted, or creatively written anything in quite some time, but now is better than never.

    You couldn't call it love exactly. Oh there is a kind of love between us, but it remains undefined. And it doesn't help that I am so utterly confused in the face of it - if what drives me to him is real want, or only the coldest sort of sexual frustration. What hurts the most is knowing it would never stop. Stop. I have to start over.

    I need to distance myself from him and then maybe the feelings will fade because right now we are performing some kind of dance with each other to figure out what's going on but I'm desperate to keep my feelings from him. Does love or what feels like it always have to be so secret? No I need to stop saying love. That word holds too much because just right now it isn't love but the possibility that it could be terrifies me.
    "Dip this foul brain deep in cleansing alcohol."

    1. Glad to see you here! Strong words. I especially like this: Does love or what feels like it always have to be so secret?


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