Thursday, December 30, 2010

84: Q&A

Don’t think I’m indifferent to your questions. Maybe you’ll find me dispassionate, detached, emotionless, repressing deep monsters. Some may find me those things. Maybe I am these things. Maybe I am even worse. Maybe I am the answers to questions you’ve not yet asked.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

82: Half-Life

We were back where we started.  All of us pushing 40, youth beyond decay.  Ron, guitar god friend from youth, returned from mountain exile, played half his age.  His eyes were that long ago fire, his hair spitting flames.  Here we were like yesterday, days of doubling time, ensconced in a club, blanketed in metal.  Back home were my wife and kids.  Safe, our time together only just begun.  Speakers blasted sound.  I closed my eyes, became 20 again.  But this wasn’t the end.  All my life left, brilliant days to come.

Friday, December 24, 2010

81: Empty Space

Don’t tell me about black holes.  You’re just like the rest of us.   Your head is empty space and gelatinous white.  The only thing you know is your phone number.  You’re too cool for school.  You don’t have atom-powered brain capacity.  You can’t recite theories like alphabet.  You’re not black rimmed glasses, socially awkward, pocket protector.  Sorry to box you like this.  Sorry to be defeatist.  This is just the way it is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

80: Cryogenics

Cryogenics, he thinks, the way to keep this forever. Slides in, closes the door. Deep space cold. See you later. Ice takes over.

Monday, December 20, 2010

79: Rock of Ages

The beach calls but I’m 17 and afternoon lazy.  On MTV, Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is again the number one video.  The song gets inside, I’m hot, sticky sweet, and it can’t be shaken loose, even as I hate it, its non-metalness.  I’d rather listen to Metallica or Guns N’ Roses.  In one month, senior year starts.  Everyone’s going to love this stupid song.  So I go to the beach and hit waves.  Back home the girl I like doesn’t like me.  She’ll like that song though.  I watch the sunset, scream.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

78: Regenerative Abilities

My wife and I can’t stop our neighbors.  Ted and wife Jane have eight kids—Timmy, Ted Jr., Doogie, Tasha, Dale Jr. (after the race car driver) , Serena Stephanie (one child), and Ralphina.  They live in our yard, eat our food.  No matter how you deter them, they return stronger and more ferocious.  We are the opposite.  My wife on most days is tired, worn down.  Daughter Nell stays holed up in her room.  Son Hunter becomes my shadow, afraid to break off on his own.  We lose parts.  They don’t come back.  We diminish into nothingness.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

77: The Impasse

You say turn off the tv.  But it’s the news, I say, we have to, as responsible citizens.  No, you say, I can’t do it anymore, it’s martinis and slapstick comedies from here on out.  But the horror of it, the widespread destruction.  Kuwait, Valdez, you say, I’ve done my time.  I watch you walk out the room, insistent, shoulders oozing toward the ground, the weight of years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

76: Like Old Times

You said, we should go grab a pint, just like old times, but it wasn’t.  I stand at the bar’s perimeter, not sure what to do with my hands, where to look.  My oldest’ll be done high school next year, you said, where’s the time go?  I remember holding that child as a baby, wiggly with no control, then later, my own.  We used to talk music, beers, the conquerable future.  The bar crowds were louder, happier, smarter.  I sipped the beer and for a brief moment, there we were, that old place, where we were.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

75: Copper

He fled from screams of messiah. He attained effortless movement, knife slicing air, data streaming through wires. Days before, he touched that lifeless girl, her face glowing metallic even in death.  Her lungs inhaled life.  Her eyes exploded open.   Her death, absorbed into his heart.  Back home, confines ripe with frying oil, he held a fired bullet, painted crusted red.  He squeezed it into a copper coin.  His mother, on her knees, prayed. Now the world knew.  He ran until he stood over deep ocean.  Then he plunged. Into the unknown ruins, the untouched sands, new kingdom of silence.

Friday, December 10, 2010

74: The Neighborhood Sloths

We’ve found our neighbors’ kids asleep on their porch, on our porch, on our patio, on our lawn, and even in our beds. They snore like buzzsaws, become immovable masses, impervious to shakes, nudges, and airhorns, and if you’d ever met their parents, you’d understand how it all fits. You’d wonder just what the heck was wrong with us, why we put with what we do, what glue is it that holds us together, allows us to sleep at night.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

73: Burst

The clock mounted to the building glows in red light.  The sky chimes night.  The city sounds exploding stars.  We hold hands and watch the minutes pound forward.  Beneath us a subway train bursts minor earthquakes.  Cars filled with brilliant lives painted dull.  We grip fingers ever after.  We watch the hour become ours.

Monday, December 6, 2010

72: A Sampling of Complaints

She said, the coffee tastes like cigarettes, pushing it across the table, offensive.  Over there, pock-faced man sad, the pot roast was stringy, conquered carcass hoisted by fork, lame with gristle.  A sampling of complaints written on paper scraps: the bathrooms smell like urine, the pay is meager, the owner has octopus hands.  Two youths sat across the street, heads full of unwritten grievances, spray paint cans in backpack, lighters in back pocket and pondered, who will they deface, how will they burn.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

71: The Multitude

Six of us packed into the Toyota, went to the Metallica concert. We were contorted, an hour drive. The next day, though, we’d become brotherhood, the multitude in black, the those that were there.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

70: Disembodied

I’m here but don’t know where. I’m floating in nebulous, I’m thinking in hazy. Memories of rain on flowers and the cold steel of buildings under construction. How. Where. Why. Fractured formulas of identity.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

69: The Last Option

He couldn’t take it anymore so he jumped from the roof.  Except it didn’t do anything.  He landed on his feet, which were sore for a few hours after but weren’t injured.  Do I go back up, he thought, do I try it again?  Where’s the new lease on life, the altered perspective?  In the house there were the problems still.  At night in bed he dreamed of a boat that sailed to new frontiers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

68: Your Typical Hand

The palm reader refused to read his palm.  She took one quick look, said, no, I can’t, turned away.  Why, he asked.  What’s wrong?  Please, don’t ask.  Please, leave.  Outside, he studied his hand, sniffed it quickly.  Soap, sweat, garlic from lunch.  Your typical hand, he thought.  Footsteps crunch leaves.  Across the street, a man wearing the same shirt, pants, and coat flexed his fingers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

67: Burning Books

He didn’t believe in curses but the book brought bad luck.  A chain of wrecked car, house roof damage, broken foot, and unfaithful lover.  A novel that went from present day to World War II atrocities and a lost city underground.  He stopped and started, stopped again.  Bad things happened, rewrote his life.  Years later, he’d have to stop one of his kids from taking scissors to a Seuss book.  We love books. We respect them.  Go to your room—not mentioning that old book, the curse exorcised with lighter fluid and fire.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

66: Dare

Write something long, she said.  I dare you.  He closed his laptop.  He was never one for dares.

Monday, November 22, 2010

65: His Words Disturbing

His words disturbing.  Kill everyone, kill everything, lay the world to waste.  Call it age thirteen.  Follow the chain: the teacher, the principal, parents, psychologist.  His explanation is, it’s all that makes sense.  He dresses in black.  In his room he imagines the world without his parents.  There’s a library of suicide poems, a catalogue of slasher films.  He’ll grow out of it.  The common refrain.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

64: V

Count the victory, one, two, three, four…. In harmonizing sleep you feel the thrum of old battles only dreamed.  Electricity courses through, the bing bang boom.  The book you’re holding—you don’t understand the particles of thought, the revolutions of letters.  Light years you will be supernova, the curious peering in, your beautiful nuclear, shell-like remnant.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

63: A Safe Box

One vicious winter S and I were driving in an ice storm.  The roads were covered in slick glass and vacant.  Stores everywhere closed—the world shut down.  We drove down a road of Victorian homes, the path lined with trees covered in glistening ice.  We marveled at the scene—toy village of winter, street lights reflecting off the frozen trees revealing pinpoints like faraway stars.  Deadly but beautiful.  This winter is never ending, huh?, I asked.  Yeah, it’s forever, he said.  Ice tinkled on the windows, the roof of the car, a safe box that trudged toward shelter. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

62: Eat Asphalt

He couldn’t stop himself from taking a chisel to the road, picking up chunks of asphalt to stick into his mouth.  The thundering crunch in his skull.  His teeth shattered debris, his cheek flesh scarred, his words become rough coating.  The road, someone would say, sending his brain reeling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

61: Gravity Gone

If gravity were gone, she said, the world would be a better place.  He stops, thinks about unbound bodies floating upward, colliding with rising cars, street lights and wires, stuff.  They’re looking out an 18th floor window.  He wants to say, what are you thinking, but he can’t.  Between them there are stories, there are years.  She rests her forehead on the window, inhales.

Friday, November 12, 2010

60: Counting to One Thousand

This woman sits next to me, tells me things about myself she shouldn’t know.  My name, the hospital where I was born, the time I almost walked onto the highway.  She was old, wore too many clothes.  Her body creaked.  She mentioned my first day of kindergarten, when I stood outside after the bell rang and cried.  I told her, I could already count to one thousand then, remembering my teacher who held my hand, walked me inside.  Yes, I know, she said, grasping my hand, her fingers like magic markers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

59: Your Disintegrating List

You, the breather, the lover, the survivor, the analyzer, the many things.  The earth is geographies, the heart is a matrix, you say, knowing full well you will die, your list disintegrating.

Monday, November 8, 2010

58: Longitudinal

Silence.  The squish of spaghetti.  Fork hitting plate.  The sigh.  Creak of pushed away chair.  The match strike.  Sear of flame.  The plead.  Shuffling of feet.  The crunch of unsealed plastic.  Muffled tears.  The splatter of tossed strawberries.  Laughter.  The echo of that first summer.  Quiet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

57: Fit of Frustration

We come to the show armed liked Mossad.  Start a mosh pit.  Your hidden bottles clank.  We know the band.  At first, they point and wave, but then they ignore us.  We get rowdy and stumble.  We get tossed.  You wander off, loose in the city.  I find you slumped over in a dark moldy doorway.  I pick you up, arm over my shoulder and a combat injury walk to the car, flop you into the backseat.  Drive home in dream.  We have no pictures.  We can’t prove we were there. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

56: The Stain

The stain, can it be undone, he asks.  No, the voice says, booming, fatherly, it’s forever.  He looks up into blind glass.  Above, broken skies.  He feels chill, aches of tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

55: Codex Alimentarius

He made a list of foods that kill.  Poultry for salmonella.  Canned foods for botulism.  Beef for colon cancer.  Fish for mercury.  There’s conspiracy here, he thought. I’m biting on this pen, he thought; those plastic particles will suffocate my insides.  You forgot the pesticides sprayed on vegetables, his wife said, behind him. He started to write, but she grabbed the paper and tore it.  The heck with lists, she said.  Just live.  He knew she was more right than studies, research.  That night, he cooked a feast, first of many.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

54: Watching the House Burn

We watched the house burn, holding hands. For years we talked about its history.  A psycho father kills his family, hangs himself.  Every other family moves in, stays awhile, abruptly leaves.  The house sat on the grounds of either a prison cemetery, a typhoid-ravaged boarding school, or an abandoned psychiatric hospital.  We watched the flames, screaming demons eating oxygen.  I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees.  We’ve come here since childhood, stealing kisses in the shadows. We don’t believe in this stuff. You clutch my hand, won’t let us leave.

Friday, October 29, 2010

53: Suckers

Growing up, we had seven cats.  We were suckers for strays, the big baby eyes of kittens.  We also had lemons for cars, bought encyclopedias from door-to-door salesmen.  Uncle Jim would come over, his eyes glassy, his breath malted, and plead with mom and dad, just a twenty, I’ll pay it back next week.  The cats would never go near him.  He’d stick around for an hour or two, make pointless conversation until my mother—his sister—relented.  Then he’d leave.  The cats would reappear, doe-eyed for treats.  Never again, said my parents, hopeless.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

52: Writing Prompts

Write about your house that has been bulldozed. Write about the time bullies jumped you, stole your money, destroyed your backpack. Write about the revenge you concocted, the payback in bullets and knives. Write about when dad hurled his bowling balls down a real city alley after a night of disgust. Write about all the times and all the people. Write about days that never come home.

Monday, October 25, 2010

51: Excerpt from the Exit Interview for the 47th Version of Death

Do you want to know why I quit?  Start with wars, tsunamis, earthquakes.  I can’t keep splitting myself up to meet demand.  I’m hard as bone and all, ha ha, but like #42 I have to say it’s the young kids.  My predecessor warned me.  I know it’s only been 64 years but enough’s enough.  #27 only lasted for 18 minutes so I did better than that.  As for what’s next, I should have an answer like touring the world, hitting the beach but I don’t.  Maybe I’ll just attend funerals, be passive, mourn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

50: Words I Meant to Write

On May 5, I meant to write this: eyes break night, morning sleepy but fresh, the squishy marble of uncooked bacon. On July 12, this: come closer, please don’t explain the darkness, here we have answers. On October 19, I did write this: bleak, the world Greek statues with destroyed arms and red soot covering flattened buildings, I hate. I didn’t mean to but did. I can’t take it back.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

49: Transcriber

She wrote by hand their book of revolution. A man emerges from the sea. The colonel sees her in the chair, sitting erect, staring straight ahead. Smooth skin the color of wet sand. Young, she could be his daughter. He imagined her hands of concrete bone moving across pages, leaving ink trails. The man from the sea. He is the end. Her piano player’s fingers—they’d have to be bent, broken, rendered unusable. He laughs. Through the open window a jeep backfiring, scents of sea water, pork roasting in a pit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

48: Revenge

She sits on the porch, looks at the backyard of trees and deep woods. The chirping of birds, the rustle of wind on leaves. At night, it’s just blackness, nothing but sounds, her mind writing fictions about what each meant. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Somewhere tires crunch on gravel circling, never coming closer no matter how much she imagines so.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

47: Come As You Were

A shotgun is a shotgun, a rule never broken. There’s a person running across a field to tell the story to two more. It spreads. The moment dies in lit candles, mourning, those songs played on stereos. Everyone grows up. In your mind you can always revisit. In your mind there’s the moment, scratchy voices, beautiful boy gone away.

Monday, February 15, 2010

46: Clearing the Table

We’re old, bones creaking and cracking, and it’s just after breakfast and I said, who’s going to clear the table. You snap your fingers and say, how’s this, and there went the dishes in the sink, fruit husks in the garbage, table spotless with candle in the center. When did you learn to do that, I said. When’s not the question, you said, and I watched you as you stared out the window, the sky shades of autumn leaves.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

45: The Bird

Here’s a bird over here. What kind? Off go wings and black silhouette. Inky drawings of childhood, fading light of atomic tangerine sun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

44: A Bad Day

You said, today was a day that didn’t smile. Asleep the sky shatters, cries confetti. A sunny day without sun. How? Ghosts wander dust-coated streets searching for lost souls, the way home from madness. You bury your face in my arm, cry. Why? Asleep then awake. Now you’re someone else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

43: Pet Rhino

How did I get a pet rhinoceros? I could tell you a novel. Consider this: you wake up one morning and there’s a huge horned beast in your backyard. A hulking grey leather couch with feet. Over coffee you decide, this is something for the grandkids, just go with the flow. Look up at the sky. It doesn’t get any bluer than this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

42: Car Pushing Ninety

X and Y are racing down the highway, car pushing ninety, roller coaster thrill ride. Sun toasting their bodies, wind whipping their hair into dancing flames. Y, the passenger, is fidgeting in the seat. X sees this, looks at the road before him. Flat, open, landscape a picture you’d mount above a living room sofa. He accelerates.

Friday, February 5, 2010

41: The Chinese Restaurant

The maitre d’ shouts, “Seinfeld, Four!” No one comes, so I approach, say, I’m Seinfeld. Sea bass special tonight—very fresh, he says. We follow him to a table, sit, ponder the menu. At drinks, a woman walks in, shouting for Seinfeld. Right this way, the maitre d’ says. I can hear her fuming—feet stomping, plastic and metal pieces clanging in her jacket, purse. Crab rangoon, sea urchin and spinach over noodles. She’s coming full force, steam pouring from angry head. We’ll be skipping on the bill so, as her wrecking ball purse goes airborne, what’s it matter.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

40: The Dilemma of the Modern Writer, Perhaps Solved

Where the others failed is length. He taps away, tap tap tap. The distractions of other people, the accumulation of baggage—there’s just not time so no. Here’s a brilliant observation. Look at the churning and spitting of the modern age, minute news cycles. Here’s pretense, artistic license. He gives a character, a situation, a complication. Don’t look and presto. Here’s a trite ending.

Monday, February 1, 2010

39: His Brother Orpheus

Argo and brother Tim were going to write a book. A fictional guide to the world’s craziest haunts, from the viewpoint of slasher film victims. Then Tim’s head was found floating in a river. The body never found. Argo by himself, singing his brother’s songs. Imagining what a severed head says, the loss of fiction, craziness.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

38: Equilibrium

What’re you writing, he asked, peering over her shoulder, and she replied, I’m trying to write a story about equilibrium. Well, do you want the scientific kind, the ear kind, or just plain old balance? Any of those would do, she said. He stood still thinking, his blank face that just passes seconds and isn’t doing anything, said, I don’t know why you waste your time. Perfect bait, but she didn’t reply. He left and there came the story, the writing furious as she worked to undermine him, drop him to the floor.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

37: Three Guys on Fire

He swerved the car, scraping an oncoming vehicle trying to avoid the three guys on fire standing in the road. The living matchsticks were still, ghosts eyes staring back from some netherworld painting. Lost consciousness then a voice, how’s your head, as vision returned, a cloud fizzling, flashing lights, his hands lifting to brush black smoke.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

36: Rock Star

Once when I was 15 I was in a mall music store, picked up a guitar. In the store window I saw a ghost reflection of a rock star, LP cover and festival pose, then a small boy staring through. I gave him some Eddie Van Halen two-handed tapping. His eyes were wide, like I was MTV. Later, I saw him in the pet shop looking at hamsters and tarantulas. I gave him a wagging tongue, crazy air picking, but I was now invisible, fading pointless hero.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

35: Zurich

Suddenly a scorpion stung a woman in a Zurich bar. Outside the snow-covered Alps. A green-glassed bottle of Vollmond, label of moon by starry clear night, slipped from her hand, crashed. Her hand molten lava. The scorpion scuttered. People stopped and stared. Only one person thought to scream.

Friday, January 22, 2010

34: Near the Pond Fishing

Years before we stood near the pond fishing, day fading into night. In one moment the air brushed the water surface. No voices, no sounds, except crickets, frogs, leaves. The splashing of water, the whirring of pulled line. Hey, I caught one, you said. I turned and you were gone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

33: Detachable Detective

As kids we used to play this game called detachable detective. We’d make up mysteries to solve. No game board but just telling it like a story, back and forth. I was the detachable one, able to take off arms and legs, hands and feet. One time I took off my head and you said, enough, time for something else. Years later I remembered the game ended without my putting my head back on. I called you and you said, well it’s too late now, spoken like truth.

Monday, January 18, 2010

32: The Canoe

The canoe pitched us into the cold waters, our bodies from the waist down instant popsicles. We stumbled to rocky shore, dragging the wobbly vessel, holding each other, a list of things soaked and ruined. Some day we’ll take inventory, laugh about our losses.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

31: Grabbing the Moon

You tried grabbing the moon when I was holding you, arm outstretched, small hand clutching for night sky. I laughed, said, you can do it, and there it was in your palm, opaque ball humming like an electric heart.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

30: The Writer There

The writer there. You mean the one inspecting tidbits of dust, trying to find paintings in the sky? Yes, that’s the one, go.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

29: A Particular Sunset

You described it as like a baby being born. The sky orange and red, the day’s blue washing away. Beautiful, certainly, but I didn’t understand. I remember her wrapped in pink blanket. The world a blur, sleeping an hour at a time. Outside, snow and rain, white pellets tinkling against the window. The three of us in the hospital room and it’s more like sunrise, tired eyes and delirious smiles.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

28: Invoice, Multiple Items

Dear B—, Enclosed is an itemized invoice for things unpaid from long ago. One Activision Keystone Kapers cartridge for Atari 2600, borrowed by you, claimed lost, $19.99; one baseball bat shattered in anger, without apology after humiliating strikeout, $7.99; one green swordtail fish, leapt to its death after you opened aquarium lid, chased it with net, $0.79. You owe me $30.21 including tax. This amount is based on actual purchase prices and doesn’t account for your careless scarring of my childhood memories. I know you won’t pay but perhaps years of guilt will change your mind. Best, C—

Friday, January 8, 2010

27: Pumpkins

You wanted a small one, the kind that fits easily in your little hands. I gave you a black magic marker so you could draw a face. It’s Mrs. Jelly, you said, holding up the orange orb, cowlick stem, face of circle eyes, triangle nose, jagged razor grin. It certainly is. The world outside dried leaves forming crunchy carpet, wood burning in stoves, whispering cold dusk. A landscape of monsters, your imagination.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

26: The Epic Novel of Our Time

Christian Bell’s latest novel exceeds 800 pages but here’s the short take. A re-envisioning of various conspiracies but not like Dan Brown. The government, the Illuminati, Kennedy assassination, Black Ops, etc., but original interpretation. While writing this book, he claims to have seen his doppelganger, had his life threatened seven times, and witnessed streams of black cars patrolling his house. The novel is complete but awaits a publisher. What you see here, though, may be it. Tomes reduced to blurbs. Enjoy with Moscato d’Asti. The reading’s quick but, please, savor the wine.

Monday, January 4, 2010

25: Steak Tartare 6

V, in a world devoid of fire and electricity, forms a circle of uncooked meat, tops it with a fresh cracked egg. The questions are, from where did the meat and egg come, and is this dystopia past or future?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

24: Ordering

He walked into the bar, tattered backpack over his shoulders, translation dictionary in his hands. With much struggle, he ordered a beer. The bartender, frustrated, sighed. He sipped his beer, printed a to-do list that stretched to his last day. Museums, stores, restaurants. Then he pondered the language: how much does that cost, good afternoon, may I buy you a drink?

Friday, January 1, 2010