Wednesday, September 20, 2017



 
--I KNOW THE TUMBLEWEED LEXICON

 
 
The Other Side of Damage

 
In the frail below,

I find our bedsheets hanging,

a Scrabble board of blood

piping strong in its center with

a 70 point word score for icepick.

You have left the engine running again

and now dead crows are dropping like flies

around our anorexic rosebushes.

Which dentist implanted keys

inside your teeth?  They glow

radioactive whenever you sneeze or lie.

The cat is flirting wide-mouthed with

my confidence and conscience.

I make myself less

full by ripping out my intestines.

With a sailor’s knot here and there

it becomes a jungle gym rope for

people like me to swing from.

Whose flying monkey is that?

It keeps slamming into the picture window

going Thwack! Thwack!

like King Kong’s erratic heartbeat.

Stand still for once and I’ll

paint you without colors.

When the moon grows chubby

it will all make sense and

the machete will whistle sharp

announcing an intervention.
 
 

Monday, September 18, 2017



--WORDS FALL SHORT AT TIMES LIKE THESE

 
…This is the story of the world—pretending.

…Some of us only bleed on the inside.  Some of us are very different and we have tattoos inside our skin.

…Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are the best people.”  I guess I’m not one of those.

…I wonder whose job it is to come up with names for storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.  I wonder how you even get a job like that.

…Someone told me this once—“Don’t let the bastards get you down.  Don’t let the assholes wear you out.”  Sounds like good advice. 

…Accessorizing before the fact is probably a bad idea.

…Sometimes when I look at the moon I forget that it’s the same moon everyone has looked at since the beginning of time.

…We are all made up of what came here and collided and allowed something to be born.  None of it is new.  That’s all we are.  Candy bars and stars.

…It’s tiny victories, like wiping off someone’s snot, that makes life meaningful.

…It’s a hell of a thing to want something so badly you’d be willing to kill everything else.  But maybe it’s worth it.

…I’d like to believe I am stronger than I am broken, yet that’s a tricky proposition.

…In truth, nobody wants a broken toy.  I mean, why would they?

…It can be a balm to write, to give a voice to what we’re unable to otherwise say.

…Whether I shall turn out to be the villain of my own life these pages must show.

…All pain comes from wanting things and believing you possess things, but we truly own nothing in this life.  Everything is slippery.

…I’m pliable, but mostly I’m porous and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

…Sometimes a flaw can go on to make someone more beautiful.

…Dude, you’re not fooling anyone.  You look just like you.

…Anyone can get laid.  Getting love is another thing altogether.  It’s a very steep climb and you have to be incredibly fit.  You have to have patience.

…Here’s an idea: let’s make each other more beautiful.  There might be a way.

…I love the idea that otters hold hands when they sleep so that they don’t drift apart.  Not much is cuter than that, and I do mean cuter.

…In many ways, the past still clings to my ankles, and so that makes today a little bit complicated.

…Easy, Sparky, this movie’s only halfway started.

…Please don’t turn the page.

…Life is something, ain’t it?

Friday, September 15, 2017



-FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
                                       
                                                      Fear Can Have A Voice

             Fear can have a voice, and sometimes it says, “Fuck you.  Leave me alone, Bitch.”

            At least that’s what you tell yourself, going blind to the hatchet in your heart, blood trickling down your ribs aphid-slow.

            “I hate you,” is Fear’s twin or Fear not being done for the night.  Often Fear’s remarkable endurance supersedes Fear itself in the catalog of what terrifies you most.

            Other people have frightened you before, other words have been jagged spires launched from a slingshot at your eyes and mouth, but you are not so young anymore.  You have grown your own set of tree rings.

            This Fear has a different energy, though.  An urgency.  It’s greedy but also inconsistent and confusing, like a Rorschach inkblot where no clear image emerges, and so you’re left waiting for more code to appear, to decipher.

            But it’s when Fear’s words fold up their tent and go mute black that you start thinking-- it might be true this time.  He might really mean it.  You revisit the tenor of Fuck you and Leave me and Hate you.  The words swell in size, becoming gigantic and menacing.  And sure his voice could walk it back in the morning, his marionette could even apologize, but you’ll still remember how his words were fists, barbed knuckle words, and so what’s left in the night’s ensuing silence is a macabre game of Scattergories being played out over the piping red coils in your brain.

            You try telling yourself you still have choices but you know that notion is no more than a hemorrhagic stroke waiting to happen.  You are a nurse.  You know these things.  You’re not stupid like Fear says.

            Still, choice only retains power when its employed, which is why after a civil breakfast where the prior night’s verbal assaults is given no mention, and after his hot coffee-lips brush your forehead before he mumbles, “Goodbye,” you become a busy fish, breaking through the undertow and currents, tossing off tangles of seaweed, avoiding the sharks that might eat you.  You even start to hum as you swim and bundle.  You find a new smile and loan it to your child.  When you ask him if he thinks you look like a fish, the boy giggles and says, “No, Mommy, I think you’re pretty.”

            You decide to believe him.  You decide to be pretty for once. 

When the bags are all loaded in the car, you give your son a long hug, then take his hand, noticing how warm it is, how small. 

You flash another smile and this time it’s not concocted.  You tousle your boy’s hair and say, “It’s time to go.”

 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017



 
--I’M STANDING HERE UNTIL YOU MAKE ME MOVE

 
…Hey you.  Wish you could have seen last night’s sunset.  She was a beauty—a floating mauve dragon with a glowing pink belly, wings outstretched and tail curled.

…I was fortunate to have a story selected in “Best Small Fictions 2017.”  Amy Hempel was the judge and only 55 pieces were picked.  The anthology is available for purchase in all bookstores, nationally and internationally, as well as at Amazon.  Here’s a review from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette where I’m lucky to get a mention:


…I had a few things published the last week or so:







Here are some things I like on a Wednesday:

“I could feel myself missing her even when I was with her.” Kevin Arnold, “The Wonder Years”

"Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young." A.W. Pinero

"The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise." George Santayana

“Patience is passion tamed.”  Rod Stillwell

“There’s a lot of sadness, but we just continue to try to make the best of every day and keep a sense of humor.”  Kimberely Woolen, Glen Campbell’s wife on her husband battle with Alzheimer’s

“I do not want my children to be worried about me.  I think it’s very important to cry in the shower and not in front of them.  They need to know that everything is going to be all right when you’re not sure it is.” Angelina Jolie

“Remember diamonds are made under pressure, so hold on.  It will be your time to shine soon.” Sope Agbelusi

 

Monday, September 11, 2017



 
--EVEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER FIND IT HARD TO FLY


Mirror to Sand
 

We are each other’s broken mirror,

shards our lips,

the crunch underfoot our sad song.

We glue ourselves back together,

slicing our fingers in the process

so that now blood becomes our tears

as they streak across smudged glass

which reflects nothing but

the black crib of death.

When I say, “Honey, please believe me.

It wasn’t your fault,”

you convulse and shoot splinters

around the room,

tiny spears hitting the tiny headboard

and tiny pink pillow,

hitting the kitty mobile suspended above

the basinet with its too bright colors.

After a while, you let me hug you

and we shatter again.

There will be more of this.

Of course there will.

We will clutch and shatter,

clutch and shatter,

shatter and shatter and shatter

until we turn to sand,

make a beach of ourselves,

let the ocean lap us

and bring back our baby girl,

cooing near coconut trees,

ready to held,

stared at,

or just loved.

Friday, September 8, 2017



 
--ONLY GRAB WHAT YOU NEED.  GRAB YOUR LIFE.
 
…When you’re lucky enough to be immersed with your tribe for an extended period of time, a ragged bliss exists inside you, overtaking those things that want your breath.

When you are one, married with your tribe, your wariness erodes.  You become acutely aware of life—the depth of color, the different pitches of sounds, the jagged shape of a cloud or the flourish of a well-read sentence—that was there prior to your immersion, yet concealed by the repetitive, mundane dulling of your senses.

When you are with like-minded people who share the majority of your sensibilities, it’s akin to a rebirth, or in the least, a marked re-setting or refocus. 

Wonder returns, and it’s suddenly everywhere around you.  Your eyesight becomes keen.  Your ears get bigger.  Humbleness rumbles and roils inside of you, as does gratitude.

When we feel most alive, youthfulness returns and what mattered so much before is kept in a sealed jar on a shelf in a far off place.  You feel less burdened.  You feel safer. 

For once, it takes no effort whatsoever to be fully present in the moment.  Very little feels superfluous, while nearly everything feels vital, incredibly interesting and exciting. 
Even the small things do.

In a sense, then, you and your tribe become a glued-together glob of love for a while, attached by invisible fibers and tendons, blood and guts.  You wipe off each other’s tears.  You embrace each other’s anger knowing that this show of angst is fleeting and authentically concocted by the shrill voice of freedom and the indefensible strength of emotion that being together has unleashed.

I felt all this, experienced all this, for six days spent with nineteen other brilliant artists, writers, and needy misfits.

It was equal parts magic and stone cold reality. 

I made good use of the time.  I paid attention and by so doing so I received a plethora of gifts, many of which are hard to explain to you.

I tried to stretch myself, writing-wise.  I listened and learned and I applied those learnings in my own voice and hand.

Near the end of our time together, I wrote hard and deep.  The words both did and didn’t sound like they were mine.  But they were mine.  I know they were.
 
I owe a debt to many…Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite, Nancy Stohlman, Katherine DiBella Seluja, etc…
I owe a debt.

I came away realizing that when I don’t write, don’t create, I am killing myself with all those spaces left unfilled, all those empty pages. 
I won’t do that anymore.  I’ve got my mojo back and it feels fucking great.

Here’s one of those stretch pieces I wrote on my final day in Santa Fe…


I Remember What It’s Like To Be Hungry
 

I remember what it’s like to be hungry,
gorging on concrete loaves, rusty jackknives,
the tips of my father’s steel-toed boots and
his manifestos carved into the backs of church steeples.

I remember what it’s like to fuck a rain cloud
in a froth, the air nutty around our thrusts and hiccups,
shooting semen all over Mars and Venus,
my cum not even sticky, just fleeting like a
newborn dying in its crib.

I remember what it’s like to slaughter a parent,
do it Watch Maker-slow, meticulously, then
fast forward lickety split, chainsaw smoking,
making chili, Borsht, and Sloppy Joes
with the remains.

I remember what it’s like to actually care about
your paper cut kisses, your anvil heart and
circumcised portfolio assembled with I.E.D.’s
and sermon paste.

I remember too much.
Every passing Greyhound bus is a crush
reminding me that
I am not legend.

But what do you remember?
Would you wager for it now?
Race for it?
Murder to have it restored in your hairy breath?
I’m willing to bet you’re still
dismembering babies and
using their chubby fists as bookmarks
for the diaries you so ostentatiously
forgot to
set on fire.

 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


 
--THIS IS HOW THE SUMMER ENDS, IN A FLASH OF PURE DESTRUCTION, NO ONE WINS

 
Carousel

She rides her white horse to the moon at a wild gallop.
The animal foams and paints scars across the sky with its bloody hooves,
leaving brick-colored stains that can only be seen by astronomers or loved ones
like us.

After a while the beast gives out,
but there are plenty others if one knows where to look,
past the drained arm veins,
to the plump toes perhaps,
or calf muscles,
a neck with its bulging, green cords so delicious.
The needle will always find a way.
 
I tell her, “You are not who you think you are,” and she cackles,
shatters the mirror with a spoon.

Our girls want to know about the ruckus.
They are clever and crafty just like her,
as stubborn as steel.
When Abby asks, “Who’s that ragdoll lady in there?”
I get a gun and do what I should have done so long ago.

***
On the first day,
her taunts and slurs are mere toothpick spears.
It’s the shrill screams that boil my skin.
I worry they’ll melt the locks,
my will.

On the second day,
my wife bangs her head against the door, a dozen booming canon bursts
that send her unconscious.

On the third,
she convulses; a saggy, skin-and-bone puppet
shedding streams of sour sweat.
She pees herself and slaps at the puddles and pool.

Fourth day,
she spends groaning, lolling on the cold, tiled floor,
whiter than the clinic’s wide walls.
“Pony,” she moans.  “Give me back my pony.”

On the last day,
the day of release,
I show her a photograph, and when she asks what it is,
I say, “That’s your dead horse.  We killed it, together.”

She cocks her head for one last look.
She bucks against me even as she clings.
Her tears smell clean
while her words
ring sheer but true in my ear.
“This time,” she says, sucking down menthol,
breathing in prayers,
“this time I mean it.”


Monday, August 28, 2017



 
--YOU’RE LIKE THAT CIGARETTE, THAT SHOT OF 100 PROOF…
 

...Nine times out of ten there’s a look of recognition that will answer the question for you.

…The only person you can make say “Yes” is you.

…I don’t always know what I’m doing here.

…I keep getting it wrong.

…It’s raining today even though there’s not a cloud in the sky.

…Sometimes the person to fear the most is the one you used to trust most.

…When I was young I was quite na├»ve.  Once, around age seven or so, when it was nearing the end of December, my brother told me a burglar broke into the North Pole, that Santa heard some noise in the giant shed where he kept his toys, and after he turned on the light, the burglar stabbed and killed him.  I was heart-broken.  “That means no more presents for you or anyone,” my brother said.  I went to school and asked my classmates if they’d heard about Santa being murdered.  Turned out I was the only kid that age who still believed in Santa.  Turned out I was teased and ostracized the rest of grade school.

…Sometimes you just have to ask questions.

…If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.

…You either go through metamorphosis or you calcify.

…Sex is an itch you just scratch, but love is the itch so far down that you can’t even reach it with your own hand.

…Butterflies and tsunamis; they’re both nature.

…Smolder is a pretty great word.

…Coagulate is a word that sounds like what it is.  (I think there’s a name for that.)

…Nothing seems to make much sense.  It’s all just Greek to me.

…Maybe I don’t want to know the reason why.

…You only give up your power when you think you don’t have any.

…Flowers are wonderful.  Really fucking wonderful.  Hopeful, too.

…Keep your head down and you’ll be fine.  That’s what they say anyway.

…Who is “They”?

…Even if you don’t think it, don’t feel it, it’s probably a good idea to breathe.

…Someone told me they’re burning me tomorrow.  I hope they were joking.

…I get sloppy when the Cab does its work.

…That’s not me talking; it’s just water in the air pipe.

…There are hardly any trees anymore.  No oxygen.  No air.

…If I die tonight there will be a million things I never said.

…I’m feeling a little threadbare, but at least it’s quiet here.

 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


 

--I’M JUST WAKING UP SO DON’T QUOTE ME

 …I have come to believe that life is a gift and love is the point.

…We all have things we’re dreaming of, it’s just that some people are actually doing something about it.

…I am functioning in a thin space, so it’s good I’m not claustrophobic.

…Everyone has an ache that might be trying to tell them something. 
I'm pretty sure I know what mine is trying to tell me.  I'm pretty sure that I'm pretty sure about this.

…God knows that love can be hard to find, but we can’t give up.

…It’s probably a good idea to rejoice every now and then.

…Sometimes the best thing we can do is to just show up, to be there without expecting anything.

…Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept good news, to accept it without feeling guilty.

…Something I’m actually proud of is being done with abundance.

…Being defined by what you lack shouldn’t be allowed.

…One of life’s most challenging things is to be present and alive in the moment.

…My least favorite road is a one way street.

…Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to be sad while being around a cooing baby.

…I’ll admit I didn’t know Jerry Lewis was still alive until yesterday.  I’m sorry he passed away.  When I was a kid, my mom would stay up all night watching his telethons.  I never understood what my mom liked and didn’t like, and why or why not.

…In Cinema class I learned that France considers Jerry Lewis one of the greatest actors of all time.  That’s another think I couldn’t quite understand.

…I am a big fan of anyone who tries their hand at writing poetry, even if their poems suck.

...My car had issues the other day.  It would only go 40 mph on the freeway and I didn’t know where my safety flashers were.  People behind me were not happy.  I didn’t blame them.  I’m going to try to be more tolerant of slow drivers from now on.  You never know.

…The first song playing in my loaner car was “Love Hurts.”  “Jeremy” was the second.  Hmmm.

…I saw a bumper sticker that said DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH.  HE’S MARRIED and another that said IF YOU’RE GOING TO RIDE MY ASS, AT LEAST PULL MY HAIR.  That made me smile.

…Nobody gets to own the sunset, yet it’s quite beautiful.  The point is it’s there and we can enjoy it if we choose to.

…One thing I’ve learned is never say never.

…I’ve seen a lot of long shadows this week.

…I’m not a Fix-it guy, but I’ll stand with you.