Friday, February 5, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

I climb this hill because the hill is there; maybe from the top things will look different, but I figure they'll probably just look farther away. Like looking in binoculars from the wrong side. I smoke a cigarette because the wind is picking up, and I want to watch my smoke baptize the city, the grid of the Mission district laid out like a compulsive graph. The swallows tear up and down the side of the hill, snatching meals on wings that I cannot see, but still believe in. They are there, I know they are - the swallows aren't crazy. 

In my back pocket is a pint of cheap whiskey, and it is enough to pause the entire universe if you drink it fast, so I do. Two long draughts. Spit a few times if you feel like it's gonna come back, it helps. If you can keep it down for a minute, it's all gravy. The warmth starts in the belly to the lower back, the sun goes down, and the lights come up and they twinkle with whiskey giggles.

I light another cigarette.

These places you carve out of life can come to dominate everything. You can spend hours obsessing about getting drunk, then do it, only to regret it almost immediately. Or, it hits right, and you get a respite from everything, but re-entry is going to fucking suck. That's alright. That's why God made taquerias and liquor stores. 

I go home because that's what you do. I climb the roof with a new bottle and watch the busses pass. Listen to the junkies roar. I came up planning to jump, but I don't want to anymore. 


  1. Willows

    We hang solitary
    over trickling brook,
    salient voice of water
    without a purpose;
    record days backwards,
    journeying to the womb
    where speech is dumb,
    words unformed, innocence
    unspilled, protected.
    We talk to the trees,
    our neighbours here,
    as we bough our heads
    in silent suggestion
    of a common prayer.

    1. This is so lovely, Vickie. The willows are always talking, even if silently. "...salient voice of water without a purpose..." is one of my favorite pieces.

    2. This is pretty and crisp and makes me want to fish. :)

    3. Thanks, Laurie. Lol, JD, that's so funny!

  2. I close my eyes and I listen.

    I listen to the nurse breathing, hearing her wait, knowing she knows I’m aware.

    I listen to the air conditioning in the room. I can feel its cold weight rolling over me, its scent an antiseptic mix of wintergreen and pine. I know I’m exposed, my gown removed, my body bared. I know that she’s waiting, the nurse, her eyes scanning my vitals, her screens mirroring my body’s most intimate secrets. I know she’s waiting for a word from above. The surgeon. The one who performs. I am but a canvas for him, a medium for him to work on, his instruments and tools laid out beside me, polished and readied for use. There will be hoses and mouthpieces too, syringes and tubes that connect, all of them readied for me, the surgeon and the nurse and the anaesthetist waiting for me to depart. I wait and I listen, and I wait again, knowing I shouldn’t be here now, knowing they know.

    My heartrate and respiration both slow, the darkness pressing down. I am here but I’m aware I am not. I feel a weight as I sink down into a place I’ve seen before. I know it from the past, I remember its birds, the birds that perch and watch. I see them as they stare, impassionate and impatient. They open their wings, clack their beaks; they’re hungry for what I can give them. They’re solemn-eyed harbingers of death. They’re massing and jostling together, the tree boughs bending beneath their weight. There will only be a need for one to move before they’ll all fly toward me, stabbing and tearing as they circle about, seeking an advantage over the others. I will be picked clean and ravaged before I wake, consciousness never returning. I will be blooded and smeared and swallowed down, piece by piece, footprints and spatter showing where they’ve been. I will be here no more, and neither will they. There will be only be the men in their masks and those who watch. The prosecutors and the passive; the ones who witness the sentencing, watch my final ordeal, see that justice as its seen is done. I will be taken away, no hope of a reprieve, my ending as definitive as it could ever be. And when everything is done, I will be gone. The memory that fades. The one who will never be spoken of again, for fear of their thoughts being contaminated. I will be the stain that lingers on, papered over by good intentions, the gap between the teeth that persists when you push against it. I will not be forgotten, not while they all live.

    And yet, as I watch, they fly away. Not all at once, but in small numbers, singletons and pairs peeling away from the flock. Where once there was nothing but black feathers, I see tendrils and sprouts, browns and greens, budding leaves and blossoms of pearlescent white. Hope rises, and with it there is renewal. I am here and I am persistent. I am a life that will continue; I am here, and I will stay.

    I have a life that matters. I am loved.

    1. Oh. This hit me hard. I was right there. And great rhythm, too.

    2. This is hypnotic and magical prose. I agree with Laurie.

  3. Comment to permit further comments on Dan's excellent writing, as shared at the top of the page...

    1. Dan, I love what you wrote. Smoke baptizing the city, whiskey drunk fast pauses the universe...and of course, taquitos. So many great pictures.

  4. The remembrance hawthorns circle our home, three hundred and fifty-nine individuals spaced out so they’re an equal distance apart. There’s a gap to the south-west where the trail once lead through but other than that the ring is unbroken, every one that fell marking out a degree of an arc, each immortalised with a tribute, an homage to each in turn.

    We had the cruellest summer last year and it steadily got worse. The walkers came among us, sharing stories of contamination and wars, their eyes haunted by what they’d seen. We were cautious but still caring, our humanity more often to the fore, most of us offering them shelter, knowing what it is to be lost and alone. We were all strangers once: we couldn’t turn them away. We were good men, both good men and women.

    And yet…

    We were wrong in what we did. We soon began to fall, victims of our own hospitality. Men and women, husbands and mothers; there was no staying it when it took hold. The eldest were the first to go, then it was the frail; the weakest among us brought low. And then I started digging, planting trees, not knowing how many holes I’d need.

    And now I’m alone. I wake up every morning, take my temperature and spit, looking for an indication, a sign of an ending. I’ve dug my own hole ready, and I’ve a live round that shares my name.

    I pray for courage and a speedy resolution.

    1. Damn! I feel like there is SO much story in here yet to be told, and I want to hear it.

  5. “Henry? Qué es esto?”

    At the sound of his wife’s voice, tight-calm with an edge that threatened a tip into panic, he looked up from his typewriter, where he’d been stuck on the same paragraph for what felt like a month. Her left thumb and index finger had a death grip on a corner of the document he’d sailed into the kitchen garbage can earlier that day. It was smeared with something he hoped was jam.

    “Put it back in the trash where it belongs.”

    “But…this says you have to be in court on the twenty-fifth. That’s next week!”

    “I’m not testifying.” He sighed, leaned back in his chair. Removed his spectacles and wiped them with a handkerchief, partly because he needed a moment to regroup, a moment to avoid the heat that was undoubtedly in her eyes.

    “But they will put you in jail for contempt, like that other…I don’t remember his name, the writer—”

    “Dash Hammett. And he only got five months.” This failed to soothe her. He rose. “Teresa. You don’t need to worry about that.” On his face he arranged a smile he hoped said reassurance, and set a palm on her shoulder.

    Her eyes blazed as she ducked his hand. “Do not patronize me. I know very well what will happen to me if they arrest you.”

    “They can’t send you back. You’re my wife. Wherever I am.”

    “Everything is a joke to you! This is no joke. Can’t you just go, tell them you are not what they accuse you of being?”

    “No. I can’t. Because I am what they accuse me of being. And the last time I checked, it was not illegal to belong to a political movement outside the mainstream. It’s a ridiculous witch hunt, and I won’t participate in it.”

    She waved her arms as if gesturing to the whole of the room, the house, their lives. “Then I cannot participate in this.”

    “What? You’d leave me?” It had become a common exchange between them. Her threats, his cajoling, her capitulation.

    She pushed the paper back at him. “You always tell me ‘speak truth to power.’ It is what you said to me when I came to you asking for help to keep my father in this country. It is what you say to all the people you help. If you don’t do the same now, then I don’t know how you could ever hold your head up around them again.”

    When she stopped speaking, he hung his head, even his eyes burning the sting of her rebuke. “You’re right.” He swallowed. “You’re right.”

    She drew closer. He took the paper from her hand. Smoothed it out, wiped the jam from the corner, set it carefully on his desk. He stared at the words for a while until they blurred. Then, his voice barely breaking into sound, asked if she would come with him.

    1. This dialogue absolutely pops on the page. Wow!


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