Friday, July 3, 2015



--THINGS CHANGE.  THAT’S ALL THEY EVER DO


                                                      How to Shrink a Human Head

            One night the silence caves in around us until my husband becomes brave enough to share.  In a voice not quite a whisper he says, “You used to be so lovely.” 
            Through the fabric of my sweatshirt, I grip a rim of stomach flap as if it’s the last life raft.  My legs feel leaden, two waterlogged halves of a discarded totem pole.
            He says, “You did,” and stares.
            “Well?” I say, trying not to squeal or scream, unable to stop the little bug of cheek flesh from twitching and giving me away.  “No one’s making you stay.”
            He doesn’t slam the door when he leaves like I wish he would.  In fact, his footfalls down the hall make no more sound than house slippers.  When I press my ear to the seam, I hear the couple two doors down making crazy monkey love the way we used to do.
            In the bedroom I stand on a stool and take a box down from the closet.  Half of it is filled with candy bars, the bottom half with a shoebox of old photographs.  The girl in them is indeed pretty.  Thin.  Leggy.  A single chin.  An oval-shaped head instead of a bucket.
            When I was younger I ate whatever I wanted when I wanted.  Mother told me my metabolism would catch up to me someday, but what kid believes anything a parent tells them?  “Willpower has everything to do with this,” she’d say, thumping my skull with a finger.
            I disrobe, step on the bathroom scale, but it’s impossible to see how much I weigh because my belly hangs too far out and when I lean back I almost topple.
            I walk to the mirror to look at myself, but my eyes won’t move past my shoulders.  I know the truth, but I don’t want to see it.
            I stare at my face, the melon cheeks, the way my head has gained girth, too.  How can that be?
            I need to start somewhere.  It’s now or never. 
            On the computer, I search terms like “Top Heavy” and “Big-headed” but most are porn sites or ones linked to cures for arrogance.  When I type in “Shrunken Heads,” pictures of rubberized skulls appear, most with their eyes and lips stitched shut. 
            I tell myself that’s what I need to do-- just make a start. 
            The paragraph below the photos is titled, “How to Shrink a Human Head.”  It talks about decapitation, boiling, how red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids… It’s entirely explicit.
            Just make a start, I tell myself again.
            In the kitchen, I withdraw the biggest knife from the butcher block.  I fill a pot with water and turn on the stove.  But before I do anything else, I get my sewing kit out and thread a needle with fish line.  I pull my upper lip out and drive the tip through skin.  I do it quick.  I don’t give myself time to change my mind.

                    
           


            

Wednesday, July 1, 2015



--THE POWER LINES SIZZLE AND BUZZ
                                                        



                                                            Everyone Has A Story

            Each day Denny takes the bus into the city to fulfill his mandatory community service.  Since Denny’s twin sister died in a river accident, Denny’s become human dynamite, creating a fair share of destruction.
            Denny hates the bus.  Destitute grannies, drunks, mumbling lunatics, gangbangers and skin heads make up the bulk of the passengers. 
            Lacking air conditioning, the bus absorbs odors—urine, cheese, dead fish, sauerkraut, wet dog-- as if mechanically engineered to do so.  Summers are worst, because the heat intensifies every stench, leaving Denny with burning eyes, migraines and an urge to hit someone.
            Once he’s on the bus, the first thing Denny does is attach his headphones and turn on music—usually something violent-sounding like “Rage Against The Machine.”  Maintaining a sneer the whole ride, he talks to nobody.
            One morning a man Denny’s never seen before steps aboard.  He carries a cane and wears the world’s biggest shit-eating grin.  As he passes each row, he touches the seatback.  Denny assumes this is to steady himself, but then Denny notices the man’s gnarled fingers, how they flutter on the shoulder of each passenger.
            He’s blind.
            It’s clear what’s going to happen.  The blind man will travel three more aisles, then stop precisely at Denny’s row where the first available spot is.
            Denny quickly scoots into the aisle seat.
            “Would you mind letting me in?” the blind man says, “or perhaps you’d care to take the window seat?”
            Denny is so stunned by this that he returns to his former seat and promptly plucks his ear buds back in.
            The bus has just started to lurch forward when the blind man taps Denny’s arm.  Denny turns  the music up as loud as it will go, his ears burning.
            The blind man continues tapping.
            Denny tries singing aloud, “Rally ‘round the family, with a pocket full of shells!”
            More tapping.
            “Okay, hey man, what?”
            “I’m Marvin,” the blind man says, holding out his hand.
            “Sorry, bud.  I’ve got a cold.”  Denny’s not touching anyone, plus now the blind man might rethink his seat choice.
            “Fine, fine, no problem at all,” the blind man says.
            Denny’s starting to return to his music when the blind man says, “You’re about twenty-one, twenty-two, I suppose?”
            “My birthday’s next week.”
            “Fabulous!”
            “Twenty-two on Tuesday.  How’d you know?”
            “Your taste in music,” he says, pointing at Denny’s ear, “and your choice of cologne.  Aqua di Gio, I take it?”
            “How’d you know there was an empty seat here?”
            “Ah, must I give all my secrets away?”
            “What’re you smiling about?”
            “Indeed, what.  But aren’t you chockfull of questions?”
            “Hey, dude, sorry.”
            “No, I love it.  Dude!  Anyway, I thought I’d do something different today, something extraordinary.”
            “Like what?”
            “Take the bus, of course.”
            “How’s that so special?”
            “Why, this vehicle is filled with fascinating people.”
            “Fascinating’s not the word I’d use.”
            He pats Denny’s leg.  “Everyone has a story to tell.  Even you.”
            “Nah, I ain’t got nothing.”
            “Let’s start with why you’re so angry?”

            

Monday, June 29, 2015



--THE FLICKER OF THE CANDLE FEELS LIKE A ONE-WAY CONVERSATION



…Happy Monday.
It’s a beautiful morning here.  I hope it’s the same where you are.

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

-Picasso could draw before he could walk
-14% of U.S. adults older than 16 read at or below a fifth grade level
-29% of U.S. adults older than 16 can read at only an eighth grade level
-54% of women report sex gets better with age and 70% of those credit feeling more comfortable in their skin.
-In the last 3,500 years the world has only known peace for 230 of them.
-Carrots were originally purple.
-You are born with 270 bones at birth but only end up with 206 by adulthood.
-More than 90% of California and Nevada are classified as under Exceptional Draught, which is the highest level for Draught that there is.
-Last year Donald Trump made $1.5 million for each of the 17 hour long speeches he gave, making him the priciest U.S. speaker.  He is currently the second most favored Republican candidate for president behind Jeb Bush.

…ISIS troubles me greatly.
Here’s the latest on this evil group:
Last week, ISIS posted one of its most gruesome video clips, showing the execution of 16 men it claimed to have been spies. Five of the men were drowned in a cage, four were burned inside a car and seven were blown up by explosives.
“You Muslims, take the initiative and rush to jihad, rise up you mujahideen everywhere, push forward and make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers,” IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in an audio message released Tuesday.

In what also appears to be a response to that call, terror attacks took place Friday across three continents: shootings in a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead, an explosion and a beheading in a U.S.-owned chemical warehouse in southeast France and a suicide bombing by an Islamic State affiliate at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait that killed at least 27 worshipers.
The more than 200 civilians killed in the last two days include some who perished in IS suicide bombings, including one at the border crossing with Turkey, but they were mostly shot dead in cold blood, some in their own homes, the activists said.

Friday, June 26, 2015



--ABANDON YOUR EXPERIMENTS

…It’s my birthday today and I don’t feel any different other than I am a bit stuffed up with allergies.
Birthdays were never a big deal when I was a kid.  Maybe it was because we didn’t have any money.  I actually don’t ever remember getting a birthday present from my parents.
I used to hate my birthday.  Then I only sort of disliked it.  Now I’m fine with it, but I’m not really excited like some people are.
I think I used to fear the idea of getting older, of aging.  And that was back when I was young.
Over half my life has passed.  If I died tomorrow, that would actually be okay.  I’ve had a spectacular life.  I’m one of the luckiest people I know and despite what anybody might think, I don’t take it for granted.
I saw this in a magazine the other day:
“With focus, we found wonder in the ordinary, fascination in the familiar.” 
I like that a lot.  It sort of encapsulates living a full life, with awareness.
I want to be that way as much as possible.
Here are some other things I like at the start of the weekend:
 - “As soon as you judge yourself through others, you’re fucked, especially in this game.  A long time ago, I stopped apologizing for not just wanting to an actor and having massive Hollywood hits.”  Benn Northover
 -“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt
 - “You miss things when you drive fast.” Chris Cloud
 -“True self-knowledge is a shifty sonofabitch.” Kristen Young

-“If you can dream it you can do it.” Walt Disney


Tuesday, June 23, 2015



--I WANT TO REST IN YOUR LIGHT




Putting You Away

I put you to sleep
in blue ice,
fragrant with vodka,
an odor our daughter used to call sour grape juice.

Now you are a sober stare, a startled Barbie doll.
There are no words,
no going back
to beaches
and midnight love-making under eucalyptus.
It must be cold,
yet you don’t shiver.
It must be something to witness what I’m doing,
but remain helpless.
You do not breathe or blink or call me criminal.
You stay beautiful as that day I took this photo,
when you drew back the shower curtain and I snapped you
from the neck up.

Now your neck is frosted,
your face too.
Fog is taking over.
It leaves a smudge of blue,
smothering your face,
and the memory of you,
sealing both in ice,
thereby pardoning me from the pain
of having to provide
a proper goodbye.





How The Light Gets In

My mother believed in shutters
and all our young days were spent in solitary confinement
us tethered by our ankles like toddler cellmates
too weak and neutered to fight for freedom.

In summer we got dizzy staring at crevices in split wood,
the tiny burps of glowing sunlight peeking through
and so I made up a story for my siblings that such radiance
was nothing more than a distress signal from the outside world,
where everything beyond our walls and boarded windows
was a vast infirmary
for those scalded by the sun.

At night while our mother snored
we passed each other imaginary Christmas gifts--
a bb gun, a basketball, a polka dot dress.
We prayed the kind of prayers that are only understood
by those whose single defense  is hope,
and because not believing meant the end of everything.

The day God finally showed up--
wearing a holster and badge--
we were too stunned to speak,
not because we’d expected The Messiah to look different
but because we had never seen anyone defeat Mother.

Now, all these years later,
my wife tells me to draw the blinds,
to close the drapes.
She says the glare can be bad for the eyes and
asks me why I’m smiling like that.





Hand Me Down Messiahs

I watched you walk on water,
saw you defeat giants and ogres,
monsters who would have otherwise shredded me.
There was oil in your blood, you said,
your heart a hacky sack filled with hourglass sand.
You stood as tall as a redwood,
the scar under your chin pulpy and shaped like a blade.
I believed you were a new Messiah and trailed behind when you weren’t looking.
The day you took your life I saw black and white and black.
I wanted you to take me with. 
I felt light enough, unnecessary.
I had just turned ten. 
No one had stepped foot on the moon yet. 
There was nothing on earth to see.
When I discovered your diary there were no omissions.
The boxy notebook, about the size of Mother’s clutch bag,
held every secret and scar
and I learned that your blood wasn’t oil after all,
your heart not sand-filled.
Though I wept rivers for weeks and weeks, I made you bigger than life once again.
I let you conquer the grave like all reliable gods.
I gave you a pair of wings. 
I painted you in flight and smiling.


Monday, June 22, 2015




--LATELY I’VE GOT SOME DIRTY WINDOWS


“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist as you grow up.” Picasso
“Take time to laugh - it is the music of the soul.” From an old English prayer.
“A mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work unless it’s open.” Frank Zappa
“He who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.”  Japanese proverb
“You sort of come face to face with your own values at some point, where you can walk away or do something about it.”  Scott Neeson, who left the presidency of Sony Pictures to found a nonprofit helping very poor children in Cambodia
“In order to understand, I destroyed myself.” Fernando Pessoa
“Home is the place you never escape, even in nightmare.  Especially in nightmare.” Richard Powers
“It is right to be content with what we have, never with what we are.”   James Mackintosh
“I don’t suffer from madness, I enjoy it.” Salvador Dali
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
“I just know that I know nothing.” Socrates
“Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that.  That's nonsense. Make up your mind, you'll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to.  But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible. – Sir Douglas Bader was a British fighter pilot who lost both legs in a flying accident, but still fought in World War Two. He was knighted for his work with the disabled, and the quote above is from his talk to a 14-year-old boy who had lost a leg in a car accident.” Sir Douglas Bader (1910-1982) British Aviator
“Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles but in avoiding them.  A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.”  Norman Vincent Peale
“The future depends on what we do in the present.” Gandhi


Friday, June 19, 2015



--THE ROOT OF ALL MY ACCIDENTS IS STUCK BETWEEN MY EYE
           


                                                              Face Book

I miss you sometimes.  I’m sorry, I can’t help it.  Is this a bad idea???
            His note on the social network site couldn’t have come at a better time, but of course it tore my heart to shreds all over again.
            Two days later we were in the Sheraton downtown, retracing all the olds sins, drunk with pleasure and Chianti.  After twelve years nothing was odd, just familiar and natural, the whole riding-the-bike thing true enough.  Still a clandestine urgency lurked about, providing a dangerous moodiness impossible to ignore.
            He continually asked me if I was okay about this.
            I kept my eyes open the entire time we kissed, even as I climaxed.  His face writhed and twisted against the fulfillment of so much desire.  He said he wanted to scream, which I took as a ploy since he could easily stab me in a room with walls this thick and no one would hear my cries.   
            He showed me pictures of his kids and none of his wife.  David, the boy, had his beat-up boxer nose and devilish smirk.  The girl looked like no one.
            “I can’t get enough of you,” he said, and it was true because while coming during a surprise second round he said, “I love you.”  His face was buried in a pillow, thereby muffling his voice, and so he might have actually said, “I dug you,” but I have always had a sturdy imagination.  
            “I can’t believe I found you again after all this time,” he whispered into the valley formed between the taut tendons of my neck.
            He wanted me again and I let him.  This time he skipped the condom, same as he had all those years ago.  As he bore into me with his ape-like brutality, pawing and curling and panting, I remembered the cold clay stillness of the clinic that day and how I’d asked what it was, what it had been, and when the lady there said it was a bad idea to know the sex I said who was she to decide? 

                                                                        ***

            After he’s gone I light a cigarette even though this is a no-smoking room (aren’t they all anymore?)  I watch plumes rush to the ceiling like frightened genies.  I watch how they flatten out becoming an upside down rug against the crystal spackling.  I’ve been fighting back a grin since he sent me that electronic message-- as if this had all been his idea, as if I hadn’t known where he was or precisely what he’d been doing all these years.
            Don’t think I haven’t thought this through.  I never make the same mistake twice.  I have photographs of my own, an entire scrapbook of our imaginary son who looks a lot like a certain someone.

 Okay, so now I will smile.  After all, if he tries to end it, I’m prepared this time.