Friday, August 19, 2016



 
--I THINK ABOUT IT MORE THAN I SHOULD
 

…Today, in a couple of hours, I fly away to Taos, New Mexico for a writer’s workshop with ten other people, a few of whom I know.
Then next Friday I fly from there to Las Vegas for a guy’s trip.  The fastest way to get from Taos to Vegas is to fly all the way back to Seattle, then fly to Nevada.  Strange.
So I’ll be gone ten days.  That’s a long trip.  And it’ll be odd being in that writer’s space then jumping into buddy mode.  But hard to complain.
Not sure if I’ll be blogging while I’m gone, so if you want to come back here around the 1st of September, that might be best.
I hope you will.

…In the meantime, I got five poems accepted yesterday.  I submitted them back in February(!).  Pretty tardy reply, but I’ll take it.
Here they are, and have a great week:
 
My Ghost and Me

My ghost is here again,
sitting on the edge of the bed
its shadowed face a shawl of despair
He wants to reconcile,
to be loved again or held in arms.
but there’s been too much carnage
too many years running.
Just look at the necklace of lies and scars
he wears across his bony neck.
If he was someone else, anyone else
I would most certainly consider a second chance,
but the rings inside a tree,
the brittle bones rotting in caskets
do not abide grace or forgiveness
when so much has been torn asunder
by one’s own hands.

 

Too Many Men

There are too many men
inside me
trying to escape,
each one too slow or clumsy,
cowardly perhaps.
They like it here,
hiding in the chaos and bramble,
playing Hide N Seek,
Tug of War,
Russian Roulette.
Now that I’ve grown a beard people
tell me I look like Jesus or Lincoln.
Who I am is never who I am.
I don’t know the difference between authenticity
and an orange that’s been bit into.
Am I saying too much?
Does this scare you like I thought it would?
Now let me tell you the worst thing:
I never loved you, not like that.
Instead I was too weak to walk away,
too many different people inside my head
saying, Marry her.  Marry her.  She’s as good
as you’ll ever get.

 

Jetsam and Flotsam

I sit on a sidewalk
listening to the rain,
how it sounds like
chicks pecking on the pavement
as a thousand cabs slog by,
sloshing filthy rainbows
of water over me.
We’ve taken cabs
up and down this same street,
across the Brooklyn Bridge
to Bryant Park or Nolita.
You said, “The rain is nothing to fear,”
even as the floods came,
boats unmoored,
boards like broken bones,
the essence of us
now nothing more than
jetsam and flotsam
wafting away with the rising tide.

 
Where Your Joy Is Now

You always reach for the blue bottle,
the one tucked behind
the others in the bathroom cabinet
I never look into.
Only I do,
when you’re gone I do,
counting out the number of pills left,
these tiny toggles
you crunch and swallow dry.
Is that where your joy is now?
Your heart?
We once made love inside a palm tree
undercover of the night
and blinking Mexican stars
with you saying that was enough,
I was enough.
Maybe I’m being selfish or jealous.
After all, orange is my favorite color.
But wouldn’t it be nice
if the stars meant as much to us,
the night just as much,
if we still longed to be tethered together?
 

 
Crawl Space

Hey it’s me, hiding in the crawl space
With a faulty flashlight that keeps blinking off
I’ve been here fifty-five years
And as many days
You don’t believe me, I can tell
But there’s a reason I feel like a masochistic Peter Pan
You see
His hands were so large
His breath a fire
The things he did were enough to keep
A person enslaved forever  


Tuesday, August 16, 2016



 
--FOR NO REASON, THE MORNING COMES BACK SAYING, “OPEN YOUR EYES”


 "Nostalgia—it’s delicate, but potent.” Don Draper
“I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord.” - Rainer Maria Rilke


"What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?" Adam Smith
"Great is the road I climb, but the garland offered by an easier effort is not worth the gathering." Sextus Propertius

"One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: 'To rise above the little things.'" John Burroughs
"It is the man who goes straight to his goal, obstacle or no obstacle, that commands our respect, gets our confidence, and gets to the front. He is the man who is sought in an emergency, not the man who is afraid of obstacles, who magnifies difficulties." Orison Sweet Marden

“If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I." Michel de Montaigne
"The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be common, nor the common heroic." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"If we should fail -- we fail. But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we'll not fail." William Shakespeare
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." Abraham Lincoln


Friday, August 12, 2016


 

 
--I DON’T HATE YOU.  I WOULDN’T KNOW HOW.

 
                                                                        Bones

 
            He was thinking of Blair when it happened, which was part of the problem.

            He hit the brakes too hard.  In the passenger seat Carly’s head snapped forward, missing out on a concussion by a sliver.

A cloud of road dust enveloped them.  “What the hell, Evan?” Carly said, but then the dust cleared and she saw what he saw, the thing that had made him stop so sharply.

“How many do you think there are?” she asked, leaning over the dash and peering as one would the edge of a steep cliff.

“Sixteen maybe.”

Evan couldn’t recall ever being afraid during daylight hours, but here it was mid-afternoon, the sun up and angry, with him a sheet of gooseflesh.

“That’s something you don’t see every day,” he said, trying to sound calm, speaking the words like a drunk aiming not to slur.

“It’s a little freaky.”

“Let’s have a closer look,” he said, as if on a dare.  They got out together, their car doors opening in unison, much like partners in a detective show.

Carly waited for him to come around and took his palm in hers.  Heat from the hood of the car wafted against her thighs.

He thought of Blair again.  A splintered memory, of them after a skinny dip in Storm Lake, her staggering for balance, grabbing his hand, saying, “Wait up, you insolent bastard.”

“What do you imagine?” Carly asked.  She was a fan of obscure, incomplete questions, knowing well that those got better results, sometimes quite unexpected consequences.

Evan bent down.  Carly released his hand, still standing.

“They’re just dolls,” he said.

“They’re creeping me out.”

Many of the Barbies were crushed—arms and legs, a flattened head.  A good yard of the roadside was littered with dismembered body parts.  Her outfits were torn, shredded around the edges and it was impossible to know when the damage had been done, and who’d been the culprit, an automobile tire or someone else.  Evan picked up a stray head--Brunette Barbie.  He held it by the ends of her hair, letting it dangle like a key chain or a dead shrew.  “She does look pretty real, you know, natural, life-like?” Evan said, taking in the sapphire eyes.  “Did you ever have any when you were a kid?”

“Of course,” Carly said. 

“Which was your favorite?”

“Can we just go?”

“Did you have Ken, too?  That was his name, wasn’t it, Ken?”

He picked up a stiff yellow piece of fabric—Entertaining Housewife Barbie.  A strand of pearls was stitched across the neckline for added effect.

“Is that blood?” Carly asked.

That was why he’d picked it up in the first place, because of the strange smear near the top of the miniature dress, right below where her throat would be.

“It is.  That’s blood.  Don’t pick at it.  Where are you going to wash your hands?”

Crimson flecks came off as he scraped, but a sudden yet momentary breeze sent them whirling away before he could be certain.

“Stop it, Evan.”

“It’s not every day you see something like this.”

“You said that already.  Come on, let’s go.  I have to pee.”

“Go over there,” he said, gesturing to an opening in the verdant expanse.

Her arms were folded, her eyes glowering yet tentative, knowing who steered their fledgling romance.  Still, she said, “You can be really mean sometimes.”

And then Blair again: “Hey dirt bag!  Come feed me grapes and rub my feet and I’ll forgive you for saying that.”

  He squinted.  An airplane, tiny as a necklace cross, floated soundlessly in the wide sky.  When he looked back, Carly was still waiting for him.  “We’re out in the sticks,” he said.  “We’re not going to find a regular restroom for at least an hour.  Go ahead, no one will see you.”

She threw an invisible something at him, her palm flapping open empty, and said, “Meanie.”  He watched her turn and walk into the mouth of the open woods.

Blair had disappeared.  It happened shortly after she broke up with him, and for the first few months Evan was pleased, even when others started to consider foul play.  But now he felt guilt-ridden for writing her off that way.  He missed her.  Plus, there was always the chance she could change her mind about him, about them as a couple.  It happened sometimes.  They said it was a woman’s prerogative.

He bent down and picked up a headless torso--Motorcycle Barbie with black jacket and matching chaps made of vinyl meant to look leather.  He took Brunette Barbie’s head and pushed the neck stem into Motorcycle Barbie’s torso opening.  He tried screwing the head on.  He crushed the head between his fingers to make the neck stem more pronounced and when he did that her eyes expanded, the whites growing larger.  His fingers were slick.  He switched hands and checked the damp hand to be sure.  How could he know that the doll hadn’t been crying?  This was actual moisture.  Evan’s hands never sweated.  His circulation was off.  People always remarked whenever he shook their hands.  Blair had teased him, called him a vampire.

Blair.

He looked into Motorcycle Barbie’s eyes and realized why he was so adamant about assembling this particular doll.  Why had he not noticed before, the resemblance? 

He said her name aloud for the first time in many days, stuttering at the B.

Yes, they had the same alabaster skin.  The doll’s plastic face even felt similar to Blair’s cheeks after she’d applied that coconut-scented moisturizer she so favored.

Blair.

Now it was his turn to cry.  A tear drop slashed onto the doll’s face and Blair the doll blinked.  Yes!  Blinked.

He grinned and sniffled and rubbed the tickling tears that were sliding across the slope of his nose, ant-like.

“I miss you,” he said. 

He leaned forward.  His eyes closed whenever he kissed Blair.  It was instinctual, reflexive, and no matter how hard he tried, Evan had never been able to keep them open.  “You’re just afraid to watch what you’re doing,” Blair teased.  “If you kissed me with your eyes open you’d probably have a heart attack.”  He remembered the pulsating beat of her chest against his as they lay there, he on top.  Evan had never felt closer to her.  He imagined himself sliding into Blair’s mouth and napping on her tongue, imagined himself sliding down her throat and dog-paddling through the murky soup of her internal fluid, swimming like a determined sperm and impregnating her aorta, slipping through to the other side, giddy at the insistent booming of his love’s robust heart.

And now here he was, lips puckered, eyes closed, the doll’s torso in one palm and its head in the other.

The kiss was disrupted by a rustling of tree limbs behind him.

As he turned, an ill-formed lie was already on its way out before he could take it back.  “I was just—“

But Carly wasn’t there.

He looked toward the mouth of the woods where he’d last seen her and saw branches swaying, their tips curling like fingers.  He called her name.  Called it again.  Called louder this time.

A spur of panic burst inside him.  How long had Carly been gone?  Why wasn’t she answering?  What if?  No, nothing had happened to her.  They were in no-man’s land.  But if this was no-man’s land, where had the Barbies come from?  Who knew how things like that happened?  Look at Blair, she’d gone missing and not shown up.

“Carly?”

He started to tremble, his mind working overtime.  If—just saying “If”—something happened to Carly he’d have to report it and then if she wasn’t found, the authorities would make a connection, wouldn’t they?  They’d have to.  A pair of young women gone missing, both linked to him.  He remembered the detective—Hallas was his name--a blunt-nosed, steroid-using dick.  Hallas had grilled Evan over and over about Blair, at one point all but accusing Evan outright.  “You do this job long enough,” Hallas said, “You know a story’s solid if it has good bones.  But your story, well, its bones are off, now aren’t they?”

“Carly?  Carly?”

Evan looked over the doll carnage scene.  What a ridiculous sight.  What a ludicrous idea it had been to stop.  If something had happened to Carly—

But nothing had, he told himself.

“Stupid dolls!” he screamed, and without looking, he threw both parts of Motorcycle Barbie Blair.  Just before it left his fingers, Evan felt a tense tug, as if they doll was trying to hang on.

He continued to call Carly’s name every other minute.  The mouth of the woods gaped cave-like.  As he passed through the opening, tree branches instantly swung on their own accord, helped along by a gust of wind Evan did not himself feel.  He watched the limbs cross over each other, from one tree to the next, closing the opening, their pine needles quivering or tittering, a sibilant song echoing overhead.

There was no discernible path.  Sticker bushes and thorny plants stuck his legs and ankles.  Several times he stepped face-first into spider webs, plucking the gauzy tangle from his eyes and mouth.  The thicket grew more intense the farther he went, cloistering him.  The air grew heavy and darker, sliced intermittently by blade-shaped sunlight which revealed a haze of gnats and mosquitoes.  Though it was shaded, the heat had risen, kicking up a stench of rotting things, of urine and decomposing carcasses. 

Where was she?  How could she have possibly made it through these conditions?  Then it occurred to him: she hadn’t made it this far because she hadn’t gone this way.  Hell, he was probably lost himself.

He turned to go back.  Something moist and cool and alive slithered across his calves, and then started winding itself up his left leg, aiming for the opening of Evan’s cutoffs.  He slashed at whatever it was.  He even screamed.

Frightened or dissuaded, the thing disappeared.

Evan began to run.

At first it was dream-like, his running.  He simply ran in place.  He closed his eyes.  He wanted to picture something good, something calming, so he conjured up Blair’s face, only it wasn’t exactly Blair’s face his imagination presented, but a facsimile of Blair and Motorcycle Barbie.

He kept moving, kept running.  If he fell or got injured, he didn’t care.  His fear was too cowardly. 

He sprinted.

The woods slapped and stabbed his shoulders and ribs and thighs.  His feet made harsh, crunching noises as they crushed detritus, and after some time a jeering swoon joined the auditory calamity.  The spectral sound was not from birds or any type of animal Evan was familiar with.

It grew louder, shrill, more violent.

Evan ran faster.

He flew.

His sandal caught in a pothole and Evan tumbled aloft, somersaulting perhaps, perhaps not.  He no longer had a sense of gravity.  He let himself be thrown or taken.

He crashed to the ground in the fetal position, his shoulder most likely broken from the fall, and rolled onto his back, gasping in anguish.

When he opened his eyes it was sunny and clear above him.  He lay there for a moment, panting hard.

Then he jerked.

“Oh, god, you scared me!” the said.  The man standing atop him wore overalls and a beat up farmer’s hat.  In a second, a woman joined him, then a girl and several boys.

“You’re late for the picnic,” he man said, his voice gruff and undecided.

Evan rolled onto his side and looked between the sets of legs.  Off where the clearing extended were clusters of families seated in the grass, blankets spread beneath them.

“Is Carly here?” Evan said

“Don’t know no Carly?  You’m?” he asked, turning to his wife and children, who each shrugged.

“We stopped along side of the road and she stepped into the mouth of the woods to, you know, go to the bathroom.”

“No bathrooms out here,” the man said.  He waited a few seconds to break out his grin, revealing his joke.

“Hey, it’s not funny.  She’s my girlfriend.  I’m scared.”

“And you look it,” the wife said, stabbing her head at him like a hen. 

“You haven’t seen her?”

“No.”

“Carly.  She’s blonde, five foot six.”

“I said, ‘No.’”

“Well, have you heard anything?”

“We heard you,” the man said, chuckling without smiling.  He looked hungry and desperate.  His mouth chewed absently, molars clicking and padded lips making sickening smacking sounds.

“Bobby heard screaming coming from the woods,” one of the boys said.

“What screaming?” Evan asked.

“Shut up, boy,” the man said, and slapped the back of his son’s bewildered head.  “You keep your craw shut lest I say otherwise.”

“But someone heard something!” Evan said.

“Animals,” the man said.

“How do you know?”

“I know.”

The girl had dull, filthy brown hair twisted into a large coil in the back.  Her eyes grew as wide as the Barbie doll had earlier.  She pointed at Evan.

“Where’d you get that?” the man said, his upper lip curled and quivering over a fanged eye tooth.

“Get what?”

“That’s one of her dolls,” the wife said.

“Dolls?  What are you talking about?”  But when Evan followed the girl’s finger he saw that it led to his own hand, the one holding Motorcycle Barbie Blair, head attached.

He flinched and let go of the doll but it wouldn’t come out of his hand. 

“What kind of man steals a little girl’s Barbie doll?”

“I didn’t.  I swear.”

“In these parts, we don’t cotton to theft of any kind.”

“Please, I’m just trying to find my girlfriend.”

“Maybe you was thinking you’d make that doll your girlfriend.  Maybe you’re one of those sicko’s.”

“I need your help.  Please, I’m worried about Carly.”

“There ain’t no more Carly.”

“What do you mean?” Evan asked.  Something in the man’s eyes told him he had a cache of information he wasn’t going to share, not now, not ever.  Evan looked at the wife and her eyes told the whole story.  The bones were there in the story, and now Evan understood what Detective Hallas had meant.

“Out here we make the rules.  We say what’s what.”

The little girl started to cry, whimpering.  Each sniffle irked the man and Evan watched him squint but not wipe away a stream of sweat that dripped into his eye, burning. 

“You’re a sick one.”

“I’m not.”

The light was leaving the sky.  Bodies came forward.  The legs of the jury were many and they struck with a vengeance, without mercy, proclaiming judgment.

Evan held crossed his arms against his head for protection, the doll clamped to his hand.  He cried her name, both names, he begged for forgiveness, but his voice could not be heard.

 

 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016




--IT CAN'T RAIN ALL THE TIME



JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Back to Age 9
Available at Amazon

by Len Kuntz

When I was a boy, there was always a lot of turmoil in our house, things I didn’t understand. I was painfully shy and had no friends, so I didn’t know how normal families lived, yet I knew ours was different.

The only place I felt safe was the basement bathroom where no one ever went. Sometimes late in the evening I would wedge myself between the sink and toilet, sitting over the heat vent because warmth, too, signified a kind of safety, as our house was always quite cold, because heat cost money and that was another thing we lacked.

I was around nine when this habit started. I’d stay up for hours, holed away in the bathroom, reading Gulliver’s Travels or any other book I’d gotten from the library. Reading was escapism, something that felt like wonder, something I desperately needed.

School was another safe place and one semester in fourth grade, we focused on creative writing. The teacher assigned us four different writing prompts each day and we were to pick one to write about. I’d always choose all four because it seemed a shame to waste a good story idea, even if it wasn’t mine.

At the end of the year, my teacher pulled me aside and said, “You should think about being a writer when you grow up.” I thought she was joking at first, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea became a kind of dream that I carried around with me, tucked away safely in my shirt pocket, right beside my heart.

That summer our garage burned down and we were laying the foundation for a new one. All of us boys were helping out. (Len is on the far right at the end of the wagon) My brothers were very good with their hands, as well as my father, who was a mechanic. Me, I wore puka shells, had long, David Cassidy hair, and read poetry. My assisting simply meant handing over tools.

At one point we broke for lunch and as my brothers left, I was alone with my Dad, something kind of rare, but for whatever reason I felt brave enough to say, “Hey, Dad, I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.” To wit, he asked, “Yeah, what’s that?” He was staring at me then, but I still told him, “I want to be a writer.” Without hesitating, as if he knew what I was going to say all along, he said, “Quit your fucking dreaming. How’re you going to eat on that?”

Though it was a knife to the heart, I don’t think he meant it that way. We were poor. The way you made a living was with your hands and hard labor. He just couldn’t fathom being able to feed yourself, let alone a family, by writing words.

But what he’d said quashed my dream and so as I got older, I took a more pragmatic path and ended up having a corporate career.

More than thirty years later, I retired early and started writing full-time. This was around 2009. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know there were online journals and had never even heard of the term “Flash Fiction.” But once I discovered them, I became a student.

It was easy to assess who the top writers were at that time, so I picked a handful—Roxane Gay, Kim Chinquee, Kathy Fish, xTx, Meg Pokrass—and I read everything they wrote, read it forward and backward. Then I started submitting to the same places I’d seen them published, not realizing that for a novice like me, some of those places are extremely hard to get into. But that bit of naivety helped as my first few pieces landed in some of the top sites—Juked, Elimae, Storyglossia and others.

Along the way, I kept trying to be a student of the craft.  Additionally, I watched people like Matt Bell, who really worked hard at immersing himself in the writing community, and I tried, in my own way, to emulate what he had accomplished. What I never expected is how easy it would be, how welcoming and supportive other writers are. And it didn’t occur to me until later that, as writers, we’re all boats in the same ocean, just using different oars.

It’s a joy and a gift to be able to create and engage with other writers. It’s like finding your soul mate and realizing how lucky you are, never taking it for granted.

It’s been a long, sometimes crooked, road since I was that nine year old boy, but when I’m reading something that really sings, or when I’m totally engrossed while I’m writing, I think I’m still him. I’m warm and I’m safe. I’m quite happy.



                                                        Beautiful Violence 


Here’s what happens:

She thinks this is forever.  You love her.  You say so regularly.  Most of the time, you’re kind.  Occasionally, you’re a bastard because you have fists and impulses that are difficult to quell.
           
Still you’re her best thing ever.  She tells you that often, especially during sex--those seldom, soft-churning, almost-like-lovers, sex times.

And so a home movie or two is fine.  She’ll do whatever.  

Really, whatever.   Film all you want.  It’ll be ours to watch alone, titillating. 

Yes, she actually says that.

And then, out of the blue, the impulses and fists become overactive, finding flesh and bone, making hamburger over and over until she finally leaves you.

Stupid Bitch, why’d it take so long? 

But you still have the movie.  It’s just sitting there inside your phone, so you download it to a site where everyone can see what a ruler you are of women, how you dominate them, how they do whatever you command, and the video gets so many hits that you somehow start to make an income from it, plus your face is pixeled out, but not hers, because it’s important for her agony to be choreographed.

History—those tortured, yet intimate moments—is recorded from mere memories.  Easy peasy.  Yay!

And so you strut in front of a mirror naked, fists raised toward the ceiling, noticing how large your gut’s gotten, everything bigger now—ego, bravado—though not your understanding of love, sex, or how violence can possibly be a thing of beauty.

Monday, August 8, 2016



--PEOPLE BREAK DOWN SO FAST

 
…I went to two readings this week.  One was to hear a writer friend from Michigan and the other, on Saturday night, was to hear a writer friend from Chicago.
Prior to the reading we met at another friend’s house in Ballard and did a podcast together for about an hour where we basically had a conversation about writing, my book, careers, families and motivation.  My friend led the conversation, and he’s good at it, a regular Jimmy Fallon.  I assume most people would enjoy being interviewed, but me, well, not so much.  Anyway, it was kind of him to do it, and I am grateful that he would think of me.

…A few bombs went off this week regarding stuff unrelated to writing and so that’s stifled my creativity.  I also got a very nice yet firm rejection from an agent I met at the last conference regarding my novel.  Out of the seven I sent the manuscript to, she was my first choice, her rejection was a bit of a bummer.

…Here are some very random facts I learned last week that you may or may not already know:

-In 2014 there were 20 veteran suicides every single day, most between the ages of 18-29 (heartbreaking)

-Over 70 million Americans are dealing with debt collectors

-A snail can sleep for up to 3 years

-Last year Warner Bros. Music collected over $2million in royalties from the song “Happy Birthday”

-There are more sheep than people in New Zealand and more moose than people in Maine

-Gunpowder was invented when the Chinese tried making gold

-81% of people would rather travel with their mobile device than a loved one (yikes)

-The most shoplifted food in Europe is cheese

-Vincent Van Gough made over 900 paintings during his lifetime but sold only one while he was alive