Wednesday, December 7, 2016



 
--I AIN’T MISSING YOU AT ALL, NO MATTER WHAT I SAY

 
…It’s true.  I’m leaving town yet again.  Tomorrow.  Heading south to Vancouver where I’ll be for three or four days.  Crony time, which is always good.  I’ll be back here Monday.  Hope to see you.

…In the meantime, I had this poem published at Blue Fifth Review yesterday.  It’s kind of important to me:


Len Kuntz

Your Facebook Page

Even now I keep returning
To your Facebook page
Like a foolish and hopeful stalker
But nothing changes
The photos stay the same
No one posts anything
Except on your birthday
Because none have been told you’re dead
Happy Birthday, big guy!
Hope it’s great!
Hope it’s fantastic!
Hope it’s your best one ever!

I should tell someone to take it down
Or finally stop looking
But I loved you once
And now this
Is all I have
To remind me that you
Were actually real

 

 

Monday, December 5, 2016



 
--I’VE LEARNED TO LET WORDS FLY PAST ME

  

Dementia

Everything conspires, even the moon.
Yes, especially her.
You tell me how she watches you undress
and shower,
an indiscreet voyeur not to be trusted.
You call me a stranger’s name and slap
the hand I raise to touch your face.
“Fresh!” you say, as irony smirks.
Your eyes, once blue as cobalt,
are a burned-down field now,
years and memories gone to ash.
Insidious, one book called it, aptly so,
the disease that has foiled our future.
But I’ll be here with you, alien or not,
as I always have.

 
Dementia(2)

There’s no longer a kiss in your eyes
Your lips are always moving,
Going nowhere
Like a stalled escalator
While your mouth shapes syllables that
No hacker has ever deciphered
Here’s my hand, my palm
Write something on it or
Draw a picture, tap out a code
Anything to let me know you’re here
 

Dementia(3)

You are remembering a pet goat
The bell around its neck sounding like
The jingling noise the door made at Storm Lake Grocery
So old man Miller would be alerted to customers
“Old man, Miller, he was sweet on me,” you say.
“He gave me free candy.  He touched me once.”
I try to explain that your mind’s become a shifting bridge
But you’re as lucid as ever, insisting,
“He touched me where he shouldn’t have
And at his funeral,” you say,
“I couldn’t stop laughing.”
 


Siblings and Spiders

I know it’s spring because the spiders are back
Hanging from my window
So many of them
Gauzy gray Post-It notes taped everywhere
Suspended midair like window washers on the side of
A skyscraper
My brother ate one once, a spider that is,
On a dare from our oldest sibling
He chewed and swallowed and opened wide afterward
Thought that would earn him respect
For once when all it created was ridicule
Now we’re seated in an anteroom
Away from the closed casket
The meal is sloppy joes on stale buns
We eat in silence, chewing, chewing,
Not knowing what to say or
How to properly mourn
 


Hate Mail

What are words if not crude weapons,
machetes and pick axes?
Our daughter shows us the messages.
I WISH YOU WOULD KILL YOURSELF ALREADY.
YOU’RE A PIG AND YOU LICK IT.
What to say then,
about the black hearts of angry teens?
How to speak of forgiveness
and moving forward?
Why averting your eyes is sometimes
The best course.

  

The Split

We take turn plucking hairs from our heads
Until there’s enough to stuff pillows
Then come our brows and whiskers, pubic hair
Dermis is next, peeling it off in sticky sheets
We break bones and gnaw on each other’s marrow
This in a room with a mahogany table
A stack of forms and lawyers who record it all

 

Familiar

Shame sticks to you like tar
That even a blowtorch cannot eradicate
And in the morning though the sun is wide-eyed
You pull the curtains and duct tape the slits
Your mattress is a hole a cavern a crooked tunnel
You fall down several hundred feet
Miles maybe
There is no bottom or escape
You try calling out but your voice
Only boomerangs against walls of nothingness
And it’s not until the flamethrowers grow weary
And the catapults are wheeled away
That you crawl on knees inch by inch
Open a door and see him standing there
Looking familiar
Not disappointed in the slightest to be
The person you once were
And can still be

 

Saturday, December 3, 2016



 
--HELLO AGAIN, MY ETERNAL FRIEND


…I’m finally back home.  It’s been a while.  Thanks, as always, for returning to these pages.

…Mexico sure is beautiful.  The ocean is.  Puerto Vallarta is.  And the Mexican people are as nice as can be, though they’re rambunctious and bad drivers.  That’s tricky when you’re out for a run on narrow streets with no shoulders and they’re zooming around a curve.  But I wasn’t injured.

…I didn’t write much, but I read a fair amount—10 books, most story collections and some poetry—a few novels: “The Red Car,” Marcy Dermansky; “The Falling Man,” Don DeLillo; “The Longshot,” Katie Kitamura.  It felt good to read and read and only pause to grab a drink or jump in the pool.  It felt really good.

…I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m writing now on very low energy.  A 12 mile run this afternoon wiped me out.  Maybe I should consider driving instead.

…Anyway, it’s the weekend and here are some things I like for days like these:

"Be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world."- Paul Harding

"I know you can't save every dog. But you can totally try to save the dog that's in front of you." - Cesar Millan

 
"We all have dreams. And we all get disappointed. We all have heartache and we suffer and work to get through it. It's just the human condition. ...So I stand here today so proud. I'm so proud of my team and I'm so proud of myself."- Diana Nyad, who at age 64 swam 103 miles from Cuba to Florida

"Question: What is life about? Hepburn: It's about working hard and loving someone. Oh, and having fun. And, if you're lucky, you keep your health and someone will love you back."- Katherine Hepburn to biographer Scott Berg (1907 - 2003)

 "One climbs a mountain not to conquer it, but to be lifted away from the earth up into the sky."- Climber and Writer Russell Banks

"Our greatest happiness in life does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits."- Thomas Jefferson

 

Friday, November 25, 2016



 
--I CAN MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE OVER AND OVER AGAIN BUT IT FEELS DIFFERENT EACH TIME  

 
…In a couple of hours I’ll be on a plane to Puerto Vallarta for a week.  I doubt I’ll be posting anything here during that time, but please come back next weekend.  I’m counting on you.

…Here’s something I had published a few days back:
 https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/22/boots/

…And here are some thing I like ahead of the weekend:

“And everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

--William Yeats
William Butler Yeats - The Second Coming
“If you don’t start unpacking your baggage, it gets heavier as you move along.  The weight becomes impossible to carry, and it can get pretty messy.” Bruce Springsteen

“Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them, but do not let them master you.  Let them teach you patience, sweetness and insight.” Helen Keller

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Francis Bacon

“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If you feel down yesterday, stand up today.” H. G. Wells

“To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Bob Dylan

“I don’t do drugs.  I am drugs.” Salvador Dali

"You have to live your life if you’re going to do original work. Your work will come out of an authentic life, and if you suppress all of your most passionate impulses in the service of an art that has not yet declared itself, you’re making a terrible mistake."
Louise Gl├╝ck


 “Legitimate anger is the last thing a person has that humanizes him or her.  And that should never be for sale.” Yusef Komunyakkaa

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016



 
--COUGH SYRUP AND DRUGS, BANDAGES AND GUAZE

 
                                                             The Unspoken
 
            It was the unspoken which frightened the boy most.  Often the unspoken was a riddle, a curse sifting through the air while a gray smoke genie ushered from his mother’s dark nostril as she sucked on a cigarette, the tip orange-red and smoldering.  Sometimes the unspoken was an empty bench at lunch time, save for the boy who was torn by being left alone while also savoring his loneliness.  The unspoken was an empty chair at the head of the dinner table, children chewing soundlessly, good manners on display, none of them trying to think about their father’s stiff body hanging from a rope in the garage or why he would do such a thing and desert them.   The unspoken could be noisy or shrill, muffled—sounds of sobbing or his mother’s scream in the middle of the night.  But mostly it was the jar inside his head, a jangle of trapped wasps fighting for escape, the lid screwed on too tight.

 

                                                                    Orion

Each night he searches the blue-black sky, sifting through a necklace of glittering stars.  She once said Orion was her best friend, and though his sister’s been dead months now, he still whispers, “When I am older, I will become an astronaut, float through the Heavens in diligent search and find you.”

 

                                             Something Different

His new bride believed in those things and so when the Gypsy turned over the final Tarot card and shuddered, they left in a hurry, him claiming hoax, she not so sure.
            At home, he found a deck of cards.  “Time for something different, something light,” he said.
           “What?” she asked.
           “Strip poker.”

 

Monday, November 21, 2016




--EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER MET WAS SO EASY TO FORGET, BUT I AIN’T GONNA BE THAT EASY TO LEAVE
 

…Good morning.
Thanks for hanging with my through the entire set of linked stories in my book, “My Long, Uncertain Search For Myself.”  It was a few years ago that I wrote those words and I had mixed feelings re-reading them.  I don’t think the writing was that sharp.

…Here’s a podcast of a panel I was on with Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite and Kathy Fish when I was at a workshop in Taos, NM a couple of months ago:


…I haven’t been submitting anything of late, but here are a couple of pieces I had published in the last week or so:



 …And here are some things I like on a gray Monday:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

"There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope." Bernard Williams

"When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another." Helen Keller

"You have to learn the science of your craft. Someone will say, "yeah, I used to read music, but I forgot". Bullshit. That's not the way it works. You've got to love it enough to work for it, you know, and get your tools." Quincy Jones

"Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself." Samuel Butler

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have." Abraham Lincoln

"Money often costs too much." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing - advising his daughter Martha, 1787." Thomas Jefferson

"The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That's real glory. That's the essence of it." Vince Lombardi

"The future of our civilization is based on prudence, critical self-reflection, belief in higher values, and wisdom in matters of ordinary, everyday life. It is not about grabbing as much as possible, as quickly as possible." Tyler Cowen


Friday, November 18, 2016



 
--THE RAZOR’S DULL, THE WATER COLD AGAINST MY SKIN.  THE RADIO HUMS, THE STATIC BUZZING AROUND LIKE TIN.

 
                                                                Cracked
                                                    Sunday, December 14, 2014

It’s not even dawn. I’m broke, somewhere in the middle of East Jesus, Wyoming, and all the radio will pick up is twangy honkytonk or stations playing rambunctious Mexican music. Not only that, but my gas gauge is leaning its elbow on E.

This little joy ride of mine--almost a year now--has been an adventure, but it’s done nothing to transport me out of the funk of having been dumped by my wife. If anything, I feel worse than when I first set out. Seeking adventure is fine, so long as you have a safe harbor to return to afterward. Without an anchor somewhere, a man might as well keep driving, fly his car right off a cliff, or drink himself dead.

The dashboard lights up in the far right corner, flashing strawberry red: Get gas now!

I’m not sure what to do. I check my wallet and pockets. I’ve got a buck twenty. That’d get me a third of a gallon of gas. But I need to eat because I’m starving.

Get gas now!

The landscape is a shroud of darkness. I’m going to run out of gas and die in the desert, be eaten alive by lizards. Panic sets in, as if termites have invaded my chest and are trying to gnaw their way through my flesh.

I try to keep my eyes off the dashboard but it’s like trying to ignore your favorite pornography rippling across a computer screen.

Get gas now!

A spark of rage ambushes me. I feel the urge to break something, hurt someone, leave a life in ruins.

Get gas now!

Up ahead, the craggy, bone-dry land shows the semblance of a town coming into view—barn-shaped buildings and flat-topped domes.

I pull off at the first exit. It’s December and chilly yet my armpits are drenched and I reek.

I find the gun in the cubby and tuck it between my waistband and belly. I have no idea what I’m doing but as soon as I enter the AM/PM mini mart the smell of scorched wieners reminds me that I’m ravenous.

I grab a basket and fill it with Ho Hos and Hostess fruit pies (cherry and chocolate) and toss in a six pack of Budweiser and some Doritos and aspirins and bags and bags of beer nuts, plus rolls of SweeTARTS and an enormous sack of gummy bears.

At the counter, the teller rings the items up as if in a trance. He’s got a shaved head, a stud through his nose, and gauges the size of quarters in his earlobes.

“Thirty-seven fifty-nine,” he says, without looking me in the eye.

I whip out the pistol and point it at his forehead where a yoke-yellow pimple stares back at me.

“Hand me the money in the till.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“I’m going to be shooting you in a second.”

“There’s a camera,” he says, calm as can be, pointing up over his right shoulder.

“Do I look like I give a shit?” I jiggle the snout of the gun at him, hoping he doesn’t notice that my hand is shaking.

“Suit yourself,” the kid says, bored as death, stuffing bills into a brown paper bag that might have once contained his lunch.

“Change, too,” I say, feeling greedy and desperate, thinking if I’m going to go through with this, I might as well get it all.

“Where’s the duct tape?” I ask.

“Duct tape? We don’t have no duct tape.”

“Fine, then step around and get on your knees.”

“There’s no way I’m giving you a blow job.”

“You’re getting a little wishful,” I say. “I need to tie you up.”

When I cock the gun, it makes a teeth--scritching noise, and the kid obliges.

Once he’s on the floor, I realize I don’t have anything to tie him up with. I am probably the worst criminal ever.

“On second thought, get up. Give me the keys and your cell phone.”

The guy hands them over. His phone cover is a Hello Kitty logo. “It’s my sisters,” he says, reading my expression. “I dropped mine in the toilet.”

I lock him in the back office and stuff a stool up against the door knob so there’s no way he’s getting out on his own. I grab my money and goodies and fly out the door, waving at the camera on the way.

The only other car in the lot is the kid’s and so I take it instead of mine. His is a vintage Volkswagen Rabbit, painted purple, that smells like a combination of Lysol and sweaty feet. Surprisingly, the gas tank is full. Surprisingly, the car has some guts.

I head west doing ninety-five, keeping my eyes peeled for lurking state troopers. My idea is to go as far as I can until the gas runs dry, then catch a bus. I figure it’s the last place the cops would be looking for me, and besides, all they know is what the kid can tell them. My image on that camera won’t do a bit of good.

I take a big bite of a cherry fruit pie, pop open a can of beer and take a swig to wash the fruity taste down. I’m feeling confident now, burning with a felonious high. It’s the best I’ve felt all year. Even though I’ve committed a crime, I’ve accomplished something, something brave and daring. I wonder if my wife would be proud or scared or what. I wonder why I still care about her and what she thinks of me. Her new guy is probably doing her doggy-style right now.

Then I get a picture of her and him in bed, him mounted behind my wife, grunting and thrusting. My eyes sting. As I cross the border into Idaho, I start to bawl. It’s only the second time I’ve cried in a decade, but now that I’ve started I can’t stop. I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing. I think about the gun I’ve stashed in the kid’s glove compartment, next to his book of cigarette rolling papers. I could blow my brains out and not have to worry about my next move or how to make something of my life. I could fly off the curve up ahead where the road winds around a mountain. I’ve got a hundred different choices, and none of them are good.

 
It’s nightfall and I’m on a Greyhound bus seated next to a young man with two prosthetic arms. I want to ask how he got them, how he lost his others. When he catches me staring, I shift in my seat and stare out the black window.

“IED,” he says. “Afghanistan. “

I look back. He’s actually grinning.

“Could have been a lot worse,” he says. “The guy that actually stepped on it, PFC Raymond Williams from Kentucky, he lost everything.”

“God, I’m sorry.”

“It’s true what they say; war is hell.”

“But you made it out.”

“Most of me did. I’m thankful for that.”

I feel a sense of shame wash in. Here I’ve been feeling sorry for myself all year and this guy lost two of his arms yet wears a bright smile.

We make small talk for the next hour. When I tell him I robbed a convenience store earlier today, he laughs. Nothing seems to faze him.

So I tell him about my last year, how I’ve been searching for something all this time since my wife left me.

“That’s a shitty deal, a woman cheating on a guy. Not much worse, but you’ve got a choice to make.”

“Yeah?”

“You can let it haunt you forever or else burn all your memories of her and start fresh.”

“Is that what you did, with your experiences in the war?”

“I guess so. Of course, I’ve got these two reminders,” he says, lifting his fake arms.

I feel guilty again for all my self-pity, yet it’s easy to say, burn all your memories, and another thing doing it.

“Look,” the guy says, “it’s your life and who am I to say, but maybe what you went searching for was something that was in you all along.”

“Like what?”

He punches me lightly in the chest with his fake fist. “Heart.”

I’m not sure what he means exactly, but all the same he’s got me thinking about courage and renewal.

The bus driver comes on the speaker telling us we’re twenty minutes from Seattle.

“Say, did you really rob a convenience store?”

“Yeah,” I say.

“Man, you’re a real crack up.”

Cracked, I think, but with luck and a lot of hard work, fixable.