Colla holla

My Walks

Been walking in the mornings, the air cool on my face

repeated mantras dance silently across my lips

syllabic placeholders utilizing the tempo of my legs

and yes I must mention the dog normally an extension of my wife's lap

tethered tightly to a taut fibre between my fingers

marching up and down the exurbs muttering my nonsense

sniffing all the sidewalks for a sense of the scents of my neighbors

Why? I ask myself

Perhaps this morning I'll find my answer

if there's meaning out there we'll find it, somewhere at the end of my leash.

An Empyrean Compendium

he sees the spiritual everywhere translucent”
-Ferlinghetti

Saint Edith approached each day as a search for God without expectation until she left the earth's surface, or descended under the sea, depending on who you ask.
Saint Luke stayed behind.
Saint Severin cleaved the stone, cured the king, caught on, tuned in, dropped out.

She defined Empyrean “The highest high heaven
supposed by the ancients to house the pure element of fire”
I said “you know what fire does, don't you? It burns.”
They knew. The ancients. You get to close to pleasure and it is pain. The purest square root of pain. The pain that kills saints, you can't have a saint without a martyrdom, can you?
Or does it require a miracle?

Saint Claire was worthy before God.
Saint Cuthbert lived from 634 till 687.
St Helena witnessed the death of the emperor in silence
St Bernard had it ruff.

I said “you get close to pleasure and it is pain.”
She said, of course, “a sadist wouldst frame the equation in the reverse.”

I prefer not to solve by that route, ma'am. Johnny, show your work.

Now let us all turn to page 4 in our compendium of saints.
The centuries roll back and rise before me like a forest

Darkness tried to move. “The rhythm is gunna get you,” prays St Estefan
As a convert and a fantast one's kisses taste tart-
less like kismet than- dart that tongue- not quiet right is it?
the sudden tumult beneath the surf [and turf]
it's always you, it's always you, it's always

The less said about St Andrew the better.
The kids are losing their heads over Saint Denis.
Saint Lucy, blind and bleeding, bore a bright light in the wicked darkness.

The whole sky reels with imminent dawn.
You came in with coffee and naked perched
on the bed … your arms, your shoulders, your hair...
I felt so happy, less like sex, more like someone with nothing to pretend
What is it you are contemplating?” she asked.

Saint John wrote 385 Songs in 13 years, a dream that buries lesser men.
Wherefore art thou means where you at, to Saint James.
For reasons I cannot explain I'm going to Graceland.” sayeth Saint Paul but we were rueful and wet when we checked into the Hotel St Julian in the rain asking “is heaven another haunted mansion?”
There was nothing left to the city 'cept clouds, and anyway it wouldn't be the same anymore,
she said “everything is ruined,” and I shushed her and we squabbled for a long time, mainly squeezing.

Saint Cyril wore an Allfather seal as he inflamed tensions in Alexandria against the Nestorians.
Santa Monica went around behind her husband's back to “pray.”
Saint Francis reflected as the fat silent star crossed thin ice.

Upstairs, a big bearded cherub strums out of tune. Have harp, will pluck.
One looks under the beds on the way out of the room way up in the high-rise and wonders
where they hidin' that pure fire at, boy?
Gosh! Hallowed be thy... #same
Maybe love is sustained delusion. Like any delusional fan, I am in.
First we stretch our hamstrings, then we let go of our ego.

Austere St Eugendus ardently sighs, his clothes were made of sack cloth. Fear is an expression of ignorance.
Saint Anthony kept a shell in his pocket, for luck. Happiness is a winsome path lined with stones. Sharp stones.
When the curtains fall, St Peter at the gates is a fucking monster, a leviathan horror, with16 million followers on twitter.
Desire is a terrible torment. What are you even lookin' for?

See the source image

San Quentin seems nice this time of year.
Saint Felipe's manifest was confiscated after setting sail from Manila.
Saint Flavian, a blonde, was repeatedly vindicated by Pope Leo, arbiter of Atila, a ginger.
When in doubt, Saint Hegesippus wrote it all down.

But none can retain their individualness. Insular for a moment we all return to the same dust. A cleaning woman ensures the rooms are spotless. Once you've learned your lesson you can take down the motivational quotes, disable the mindfulness app. Change means clean walls and zero notifications. So why do I feel so sad? With sight comes no need for vision. The ink stops flowing on the page and, backed up, blots out the night sky. Why am I falling apart? Once you've metabolized the teaching it leaves you speechless. She read over my shoulder, “Some say dumb.”

Prayer is a game without ceasing, rejoice! sayeth Saint Isaac.
Saint Theresa heard the call and held on, sleeping like a child, higher than the moon.
Saint Brendan the Coward, a strong believer in repetition, was exiled twice, and kept coming back for more.
Saint Louis came back through the white cloud to do it all again.

Last night I built a fire. She laid a rose on the embers. I thought about Vulcan, and man's thievery [of fire] from the Gods. St Lawrence, patron saint of comedians, grilled to death on a spit. I thought about the stories we tell ourselves, the ones that glow from under the secret doors in our hearts and and keep us warm at night. I thought about the story of you and me, its starts and stops elided ever by the through-line … going away.

But it hurts” he reminded her.
She whispered “lets hurry up and go”

'Splozion

Asteraceae

Surreptitiously we wandered

scrutinizing the dark halls of the high school

where it all happened so many rotations of the earth ago

tepidly traversing old haunts

with new art on the walls,

new trophies in the case,

and pictures of new teachers who

are younger than I and have been there longer

than I ever was

in short, not trace of us,

despite what doubting memory insists

this place was important to me

but I was not important to this place.


*

Packing up the old apartment

and painting over all the old walls,

so someone new can see their own potential here

a bare bedroom everything gone,

a domicile decanted, washed with white

is it true we all someday stand in emptied houses

slow to espy we shall not leave a mark.


do you remember hunger?
the inevitable dread of the short 8pm weeknight panhandle
every moment we are disappearing a little
a cumulus sashay to swallow the moon
stalks of dandelion husk in the breeze


rolling downhill unimpeded quaking

their very grip on the earth

under violent threat, would you let go of that plane

leaving the tarmac? The Taliban undo

in days what the most

technologically advanced military in human history

took twenty years to contrive

for naught- have made us ghosts, djinns, back again

as if we were never even there.

Tree4ac3

Meta Calends



Wednesday morning

"The clouds clamored and crashed in pointless wars for eons until they discovered that they could take to the land and gain the upper hand."
"Lower hand," he corrected me, his chops chocked with cheerios.
"Right," I continued, "Like fog, a killer spy, the winner was the one with the lowest ground, not the high ground."
"But how can clouds talk to houses?" he asked.  My nephew wakes up impatient, ah youth.
"I'm getting to that!  It's easy. Through electrical impulses. In the water vapor, but I haven't got to that part yet."
"How come we can't hear them?"
"Hear them?"
"Talking.  You said that clouds can talk to houses."
"I did.  Yes. Maybe we can hear them we just can't understand.  Like dogs or cats."
"Ack!  This is not true, but, go on."

We were casually sharing one of those uncle/nephew breakfasts in what had become my sister's way of providing me with an anecdote to my malignant muted misery, and secure free babysitting while she and her husband went to work, before school. Two birds with one breakfast. The breakfast nook in their apartment overlooking the alley with the gold light in this ungodly predawn hour.
Or godly, depends on how you look at it.

"The houses of course realized that they could use the clouds to their own scheming advantages were quick to take sides, since the houses with flat roofs abhorred cloud wars and the houses with the tilted roofs loved to get the rain flowing."
"And apartments like ours like to have protection, so far off the ground," my brother-in-law, with that.
"Some encouragement from the back," I raised a hand in hail.
"Dad, we're only on the fourth floor."
"True 'nuff," he scrunched his face in an attempt to fit his tie around his neck and asked me "do you remember the Jetsons?"
"Those big tower houses?"
"Up over the clouds.  I loved that."
"Me too."
My nephew, rapidly googling, "Wait, what was it?"
"The future."
"Yeah, it was before your time."

Tuesday night

The low snore of the AC oscillates sleepily and she mercifully passes me the Kleenex from across the couch.
"And what about April?"
"I can't imagine that I was my best self. I hadn't yet fallen out of love." I wiped the tears with a throw pillow. "I still haven't."
My sister, the counselor, "she isn't real."  We spoke in muted tones, the old familial singsong that our parents sang when it was us
and not the boys asleep down the short hall, the HBOMax cycling through suggested recommendations, the lone light a golden hue meeking in
from the back alley, "She was. She just did her research."
"Who are you trying to convince?"

Saturday morning

The burden of badinage. I tried to recreate the cloud story in my notebook, reenacting the entire enviable encounter of nephew/uncle breakfast during a drift in thought throughout another bucolic brunch whilst I sat by the silvery seaside with T.S. Eliot feeling squeamish at either the eggs or the existentialism. The water
below, jutting in under the concrete, was cold and dark, undulating reflexively and reflecting everything back murkily, an immense reservoir of melancholy.  I had just been presented with a text message that I was going to be an uncle, again and the thought paraded around flagrantly that I might be eating
in an attempt to fill a deeper need than hunger.
"I don't know nothing bout dem eggs but shouldn't you be plooking for a baby shower gift?" asked T.S. Eliot.
"I would if I had any money.  Plooking?"
"Typo. I can spot you some Franklins sun," he boasted, "and it's a typo.  So what? Howmuchu need?"
A spoonful of purplish jelly dribbling slowly onto fly-crowded toast. I texted Nick a picture:

"The menu here is bussin," said T.S. Eliot.
"Bussin? What is that?"
"It's the thing."   He holds up his Kindle to show me today's paper and swirls a middle finger around the headline US Team Edges China, Pulling Out Last Minute Victory "Is it just me or this super weird? As in, like, sexually?"
"Here she comes," I say.

Tuesday Midday

"I think you're thinking of that oldies movie."
"Cocoon?"
"No. Robert Redford and the Gun?"
Work at this hour is a graveyard copse. The boss takes his long lunch meeting, emphasis on the lunch, and so we shoot the shit back and forth, Nick and I.

"Dude, I was just reading about the Sundance Kid in Bolivia and I very nearly lost it."
"Why?"
"Just the disparity of the situation. I read about it online. There are so many uncorroborated details but basically we know that Butch and Sundance went to Bolivia in like 1906..."
"With Etta Place."
"...with Etta Place, and we know that there was a payroll robbery two years later, from one of the silver mines way out in the middle of no where, I mean desert, no trees, practically Martian landscape Bolivian plateau middle of nowhere, and it was reported that two vaqueros yanquis did it, and then two days after that, down the mountain, two strangers check into a lodge with a mule to tie up and the mule was branded by the local mine so the lodge owner, one of the mine workers, telegraphs it around, and the government sends three soldiers to check it out, and they tell the sheriff and the next thing
you know this shack's surrounded and they're in there in the middle of the night and they start shooting, killing a cop, so the posse fire back and it goes real real quite real fast, and then about 2 am they hear like a wail, like an anguished, groaning, yellscream, followed by a bang, and then another loud bang, and then nothing until sun up. They went in there and find two guys just riddled with bullets, bleeding to christ out toes, arms, legs, and one has a hole square between the eyes,
and the other is kind leaning over him, and has one in his temple just over the ear and they says, this guy killed his friend and killed himself rather than sit here and die and jesusgod that's just so fucking awful."

No response.
* Loses it. *


Saturday morning (again)

From over on the bright side of the road I see her before she sees me and T.S. Eliot hastens to make a lame excuse to leave.
"No please, don't get up on my account," she says while taking his seat and finishing his Eggs Benedict. She nods, agreeing with something going on on the other end of the earphones connected to her phone. "God it's
hot. Can I borrow your pen?" she asks while extracting my pen, which I was using as a bookmark in my Celeste Ng. She is wearing a wool beanie and blue cosmetic glasses. I try to find the lost page. "Well I've got to let you go," she says into her ear, "I'm sorry about your loss sweetie.
Buh-bye." Turning to me "you're got something on your face there, no there, above the, here."
I can smell the almond soap on her skin. The sky is milky white, almost gray, but the sun is still back there behind the haze, burning its way through. Truly a splendid day by the sea, someone in their right mind might have said.
"It is hot." I concede.
"Baby, shave 'em nuts."
"Don't be cruel."
"Don't be so sensitive."
I try to wipe the thought of her new boyfriend Dean striding around without any pubes, but there it is.  Try thinking about this cafe, coming here in the rain to stand and stare.  I wipe the sweat away from my eyelids.  She orders two Bloody Marys by holding up a hand and mouthing the words Bloody Mary as she swipes to answer the phone again "This is Careyann, give it to me."
The drinks arrive and I am glad there is a table between me and the ground.
  "Best to go down swinging," she says, "here take a big swing. Bigger.  An insanely big swing.  Do you trust yourself?"
"No."

The Cast of Characters

I met her last year between therapy sessions. At the bar.  "Name's Careyann and do wear it out," she said, thrusting a tattooed hand, "that way you don't forget. Pleased to meet ya."
"Mutual, I'm sure," said my buddy Nick, spilling beer on his plaid pants. I was dating Lurlene at the time and the less we say about that the better. Nick and I were sharing the place up the hill, this before he finished his second masters and they got married.  Nick and Nick's wife moved to Idaho or some other make-believe place.  My sister around that same time, moved in, just across town, her husband, my brother-in-law works in finance.  Careyann worked at the college part-time, but since
that gig had gone remote she had started selling fabrics and patterns... actually, I don't know what she did.  She made things, and she was dating Dean exclusively shortly after we met.  A college football player, Dean was stupefyingly profound for such a blunt instrument, absolute mozart escaping his lips all the time with zingers like "ur stupid," and "yo," but since he was not yet twenty-one Careyann did her pre-game drinking with us, that is, Nick and I.  This before I quit drinking once my sister settled in and I slid pretty hard into the uncle role.
My nephew is at the age where he can well and truly plug in and have the world fed to him byte size. Completely devoid of curiosity, clicking, clicking. Who is the thinker behind your thoughts, kiddo? Tell me more about that I ask, and he does.

Friday night

The bar crowded and the crowd growing still.  The DJ's disco has a lush string section and a slapping bass. Notes of  patchouli and hops. Lots of dangling masks.  Nick's wife and I tortuously bickering over conversation's effluvium.
"I suppose the symbolists were probably right and language is just a means to an end, but even if so, I'm still in love with it."
"Which language though?"
"Senseless words are best.  Nonsense words, like in Tolkien.  New words hinting at new worlds."  Nick gives her a squeeze and hands her a drink, dripping mustard from his hotdog onto his patent leather left shoe.  Nick is wearing his coolguy
headband, which is decorated with stars and yin yangs, and seems to draw inordinate accentuated attention to his cartoonishly receded hairline. He bends over and curses, "What is it for mustard, club soda?"
I wore my khaki colored double-breasted jacket because tonight is an occasion, and it allows me to hide the jotting notebook in my pocket. I imagine God, knowing all words ever spoken and all words yet to come, spends his hour sputtering profane inanities just to keep himself busy. I write. The word as creation.  I text Careyann to ask if she's coming.
The song changes and Nick's wife recognizes it and nods and grins "yeah. I mean, yes." She is wearing a casual floral blouse and black pants and has recently started a new job as division manager. They are only in town for the weekend to help her mother move. It must be stressful, but she doesn't show it.  What she does put on a big show of is pretending to find my very presence onerous, she always has, although in truth she gets along with me really well. I think that's probably what she doesn't like about me, or my friendship with her husband.  Viewing our second-hand relationship as some kind of pathetic souvenir trinket picked up at a truck stop outside the Dales long ago and now ready to designate to the Goodwill bin for good.
I couldn't help but smile. Mirth. Another week gone, we've made it, and my friends are back in town.
"I don't like the words I'm trying to avoid," I say, cryptically. Nick's wife turns, intrigued by this, perhaps because she's drinking.
"What words are you trying to avoid?"
"I don't know. Authority?"
"As in Chicago Transit?" asks Nick.
"No, as in..." I took a sip of my melted ice, "as in people who say they know what's right, or, they know this is how it should be."
"Hear Hear!" Nick raises a glass, "to continuous curiosity!"
Nick's wife, swishes her wine around her teeth and adds "curiosity seems to be helpful, evolutionarily speaking."

April

This is the final straw, I thought. It was to be a dinner with her parents and I knew that I couldn't fake it.  We were done. There wasn't a reason. I had met them before, There was no distinguishing feature to the occasion.  Perhaps that's a metaphor, nothing was special, there was no feature to mark the way forward.  She drove us out to the resort because I told her I was
tired.  Her Dad had the Lobster Thermidor and her mom refused to let the silence join us. We all wanted it to. Instead she talked. Her voice a plate of soft wet vegetables, she talked and talked and talked. Ensconced in an infinite droning, lost in a nasal larp oubliette, that night we ended it. The phone call ended it.

Drunken scribbles

We are short lived and only slightly longer remembered, mere guests on this young wet earth and we'll be well and truly all gone before it blossoms, dries and falls, sinking into the slippery depths of gravity's regurgititive mechanism, to be reborn again and again and even that still is but a fiery infancy of an infinity that makes the sun and stars seem impatient and rushed. 

An entire relationship in 83 words


Overlapping coffee rings, her kissable lips bitterly turned away and turning further still, lost, gone. A tender, aching preoccupation, a maddening devotion. The wrong one. Unmet hands. The world stopping with a phone call as a plane flies overhead.  She agreed to keep up appearances until after things settled.  I never asked her to do that.  That was a good thing to do. An empty vase on the Janus formica. Tossing flowers into the bin. We had moved in but then we'd moved on.



Saturday Morning (Once Again)


"So you gonna spill yer guts or not?"
"It's hot."
"Sweat it out then," she ate the bacon and the celery and left the red drink full to three quarters.
"You're rude."
"You're rude.  I don't need to put up with this.  Plus," standing, "I best not marinate in my own juices too long."
Somewhere in the world a brilliant retort lies dormant, resting up, no doubt, to encapsulate my immaculate wit on a later occasion. She gathers herself to leave. I meekly proffer "what happened last night?"
"I had to help my friend."
"And what am I, chopped liver?"
"No honey, you're hungover."  She puts her hand on my chin and squeezes then turns and is gone. "Ta!"

Tuesday (early evening)


"Just get it organized," my sister says, turning off the light, loading the dishwasher. Down the hall, my nephew blathers, moans.  Talking in his sleep.  "We are creatures of habit. You're just..." picking up shoes "trying to keep balance on too thin a line." Then, doing a German accent "you are vall of disorder."
"My life's a mess."
"No it isn't! Well, it sort of is, but it doesn't need to be." She across from me and levels a clinician's stare.
"I know."
"Do you know?"

A dream without context

Solid stolid trees and an abject refusal to go further. Young boy whines, his brow glistens.  Sun forest.  Rain forest. The objurgation of my parents  as they trudge me desultorily up Greeble Creek Trail in the summer of 2005. Trundle. Above the canopy a deep purple sky, a void, an abyss. The absence of infinity looms idly while the end of summer looms large. Tomorrow school will start.  Touching toes by the fireplace stones. Promises of forever, primrose fingers mingling in a loop in the warmth of a late summer's glow. Nick's wife holding a datapad as we watch on the conference call "Your feeble mind cannot grasp lifetimes.  We will work, we will also work and with all our heart we will work unto god's glory amen."

Saturday Afternoon

Carnations, Chrysanthemums. One thing I did for therapy (at the bar) was try to think of names of different kinds of flowers. It's therapeutic isn't it?  I settle on the appropriate response to my sister's earth shattering text and hit send.


Finish both Bloody Mary's and evict the last residents of my wallet by leaving a four dollar tip.  Get paid again next week. I decide to walk. Think, probably for the first time in a decade about my old landlady,  out of depths of debt the past recurs until lessons are learned or obviated.
Who said that? A smart girl in bed beside me once. Scribbling Mankind must be a cockroach to God.

Two Years (Aug) Ago

"Why do they call him a linebacker?"
"I dunno. Because baseball guy was taken?"
"You're so silly."
Careyann
and I carp, dawdling on the bleachers for a bit, watching those preseason behemoths thunder into one another, toss the ball the middle distances. I needed new contacts. Squinting, asked "can you see the signs on the other side of the field?"
"Yes," she said, lip between her teeth, not looking up from the crochet.
"Good enough to read them?"
"Yes. It says Toyota."
"The eye doctor said yesterday I need new lenses."
"Yesterday never existed," she exclaimed, jumping up and pulling me down and back out to the parking lot. I was starting to believe her. Change was her real word for God.

Tuesday Late Afternoon

Over Zoom Nick says, absently, "they should make a Footloose prequel and have it directed by Christopher Nolan."
"Who would play young Kevin Bacon?"
"Dude, it wouldn't have Kevin Bacon.  Have you even seen Footloose?  It would be a prequel to show how that town got that way."
"You mean boring?"
"Yeah I guess."
I let that one float by. The minute hand traverses pale faded eons. "What's that song about sinking ships?" I ask.
"Gordon Lightfoot," says Nick, paying more attention to his fantasy league than to me, or work, anything.
"No."
"Which one? Why?"
I spend my workdays in a room without windows. This detail may not matter.  Nothing matters, the absence of narrative derails nothing. "Work is..." I trail...
"Work, " he finishes. "...Slow" I say, simultaneously.
Most days they don't mind so long as I come in by ten, is this great?  I study spreadsheets, explain intangible things to people, and feel my skin withering, which is strange, since they pay me very well and I am not a houseplant. I can hear the sports news Nick is streaming take a break for commercial.
"Meaning absolutely no disrespect to my grandparents and ancestors but perhaps working the same job for 30 years
represents a lack of initiative or imagination."
"Or," he considers, not looking up from his phone, "or ya gotta remember, opportunity."
"You mean like, your grandparents couldn't change careers so they didn't."
"Something like that."
"So you guys will be getting in on Thursday night?"
"Yep," he sighs and fiddles with a fountain pen, a jot of ink landing on his cheek.

Just before closing time my sister texts that I should come over, my nephew wanted to see me.  Then my brother-in-law texts that he will be making teriyaki tofu-kabobs, I should come. They are probably sitting right next to each other, across town, texting me, happy.  She texts again, adding that I could stay the night.

Tuesday 

Arching her back she gets up again, tidies the pillows, folds the blanket, wipes down the countertop.  "Do you know why I watch SVU, and Survivor, and Virgin River and a dozen other shows before bed every night?"
"Because," I snivel, "you have a yen for contemporary TV?"
"No. It's because they are structured. Every hour they solve the crime, vote out the bachelor, learn a new life lesson.You know?  Every problem solved in 44 minutes, it's wonderful.  You just need a little bit of an organizing principle and everything will start to come together.  I need to go to bed."
"Thank you, counselor."  I really hadn't meant to come over and talk about myself late into the night.  "Didn't you have something you wanted to tell me."
"I love you and we'll talk more later.  There's a clean sheet on the futon.  Breakfast is at 5, I'll be at work, don't let me wake you."


Two Years Ago September

There was a fight inside the dive and the cops had to come so they shut the place down just as a buzz started to scaffold the night with a little warmth.  Careyann wore stilletos and looked yawpingly side to side for whats next so I offered an invite "Want to come back to our place?"
"How far is it?"
"It's just up the hill.  Nice neighborhood.  On a good night you can actually hear the rent increasing."
Nick called shotgun and proceeded to slam the car door shut on his own hand. "YAH!
Careyann laughed, crouched into the back to text her boy.  "You guys sure you're not luring me home just to tie me up in your sex dungeon?"
"Nah," mewled Nick "and 'sides, we don't have one."
"They say all boys want the same thing."
"Residual division?"
We stopped for two six packs, and a bottle of Remy for her, and then fly the car up the hill.
"Why don't I see your girlfriend ever?  What's her name, again?"
"Her name is Lurlene."
"I've met her," said Nick, fiddling with the lock thru swollen fingers, "Where's she from, New Jersey?"
"Do you know anyone in New Jersey named Lurlene?"
"Good point."
"Wow," says Careyann, "look at that view!"
"Yeah."
"That's..." we sit down and look at the lights of the city "fucking amazing," she says, "I need that."  We don't even turn the lights on, quiet as church mice, the fucking majesty.  I am a spectator of my own spectacle of life I wrote.  Nick opened a beer and fell asleep without even taking a drink.  I had two then poured his in the sink and gave Careyann a ride home.  Sort of.  It was an hour drive.  "My back itches can you scratch it?" she asked, but then she insisted that I leave her on the corner near her house.  She didn't want to tell me where she lived. Let it all go. The stars and the moon guided me back home.

Friday Night

From the bar we hop over to the lounge, a few blocks away.  Having driven separately we decide to split up and rendezvous. Nick's wife waves at me waiting outside the door, me and the other tiny bugs buzzing around the light. We go inside and suddenly Dean is there. Careyanne's boyfriend Dean, guffawing obtusely at a joke we'd thankfully just missed.  "Hey! The party's here."  He murdered our hands in his paw. All I could focus on was the nest of nose hair. Nick asked if he wanted to join us but he declined.  Several other guys from the team were there, bloating menacingly by the jukebox. I overheard them:
"Pretty as any anime tranny."
"I- I don't know if I've ever seen an anime tranny."
"Then you'll just have to imagine how pretty they look."

I will say this about Dean, he never threatened to actually harm us, so there's that.  A few drinks in him and he really became tame as a St
Bernard. Sometimes it's the humblest people who have the most to appreciate. I wrote. "Simple minds, simple pleasures" I said.
"Touchy touchy," said Nick's wife.
"Touche"
I ordered a double Jameson and put it on Nick's tab.


More Drunken Scribbles

The way
people come prismatic together, then snap apart. Or drift. The way
friends can bring out the absolute best, or the worst. The way
relationships levitate otherwise dormant, undetected, and unrealized qualities. The way
I'm not feeling it any more.


Wednesday Morning

"And so the clouds, encloaked in summer rains, were summoned alongside the winds of the west to the lofty mountain meeting."
"Time to go," says my brother-in-law.
"Awww, can't we just wait until the story ends?"
"Now the story is the adventure of waiting for and not missing the bus," he says, "this story is over," he declares.
"For now," I addendum.

Friday night

"Maybe just a drink more."
"I thought you quit drinking."
"That's why we'll just have one. I'm sad. Come on."
"Can't you just move on?  People do."
"Let's stay and see how the story ends."

Saturday Predawn

The universe a tolerable thrum, like underwater motors, life in utero, humming with your ears plugged.
"Let's have breakfast someplace fancy," says T.S. Eliot's disembodied voice.
"You'll have to earn it," I say, "or better yet, pay."
"Want I should eat it for you, too?" T.S. Eliot asks.
The universe churns
my stomach.

Thursday

"I made you some pictures," my nephew, on Snap.
"Pictures?"
"Yeah, of the clouds. Talking to the houses. Can you come over this weekend and finish the story?"
"More than likely. How do you think it ends?"



Saturday 3 AM

The
jukebox unplugged and the half-empty lounge lizards laughing their way
crashingly out to christen the empty streets where we will wake everyone
all at once.

Tree4ac3

Give and Take

"and I wanting only peace"

   -Ashberry

“Perhaps if the future existed, concretely and individually, as something that could be discerned by a better brain, the past would not be so seductive: its demands would be balanced by those of the future.”

 - Nabokov

"None could begin to rival him especially in his later phase."

   - Heaney, on Auden



I told myself I wouldn't see him again so of course I did.  "What if he's got guns" Jane sniveled. That gave me pause, but fuck it, nothing guns can do but exacerbate existing drama.   I went over there.  He didn't have any guns, or if he did, he didn't point them at me when I pulled up in the company car.


"What are you doing here?" he asked from the balcony.
"I brought you some groceries," I lied.
"Where are they?"
"Err, I- I mean, I came to see if I can bring you any groceries?"
"Get the fuck out of here." I set the e-brake on the car and went on up to inventory. The place wasn't as bad as I was imaging, granted I was thinking Katrina level devastation, one had to remember that he was a grown man, he knew how to take care of himself, even if he usually chose not to. I noted the disassembled drones on the table, made a list, told him I'd be back.
"Don't bother," he said, "I don't want to be interrupted."
"In that case I'll knock first."
"How civilized."

On the phone on the way to the Safeway, Jane asked "how is he?"
"The old bastard's got me running errands for him," I lied.
"Don't bring alcohol."
"I wasn't planning on it." Especially after that last time. I had told myself I wouldn't see him again, let alone help sustain the guy, he's probably working himself up right now about how he'd rather go fishing without a pole than accept my help, priming himself to prise the '65 Mercury Monterey out of the garage.  "I'll see you later," says Jane, a weird undercurrent to her voice. A shaved head with hairy tattooed arms idling in a custom van. Mask donned I lock the company car and enter the store. Returning a short time later with a full cart and stooped shoulders a guy comes up and asks me for my card.
"Sorry, yeah, sure.  I forget I'm advertising in this thing," I say, reaching into my rear pocket to pull out a business card.  The guy looks confused, thanks me and walks toward the store.  It's only a few minutes later I realize that he didn't ask me for my card he asked me for my cart.  Perhaps my hearing's going, just like my hairline, just like the control I once imagined I concerted over my waistline. Still brooding in this rather grueling subjectivity some minutes later, I pull back up to unload the cargo. Leave the phone in the glovebox and make a mental note of the weeds, like blighted blackhead, all around his shaded front quarter-acre.  The towering horsechestnut tree lending it's sad shadow all over the split level's roadfront southwest side.

Up the darkened interior staircase with that sinking feeling in my gut that I'd made a mistake in coming back here. Put away the groceries. Perhaps the old wizard had exercised his eerie powers of mind control over me. That's why Jane wouldn't be coming back.  "I'm back," I added aloud, an afterthought, wadding the wispy plastic shopping bags into a ball and looking at a sunfaded photograph on the counter, from university days, a pearly-toothed lad, with hair that reminded me of summer lawns after a rain, looking out of the cardboard frame, fresh as a newly sharpened pencil.  Some insufferable similarities. "You still here?" I snuck a nose into the bedroom and heard him ensconced in the master bath, grumbling and dawdling, so I struck out with the laundry, back downstairs to the washer in the nook next to the garage.

A western wind midafternoon drained the clouds from the sky like suds from a bath as a said a wordless prayer thank you G_d for the blessing of our blemishes, and for bleach to brighten out stains beyond easily visible distinctions. When I went back upstairs he was cradling a stripped handgun and wiping it down with the carbon fiber cleaning rod. "To what do I owe such preference, that as busy a man as yourself confers upon me two visits in one day?" Like a fat fart he suppressed a wrinkled stale smirk.
"Just lucky I guess."
"Or it was too busy a day in the unemployment line for you to bother there."
"I have a job so I wouldn't know," I lied.

"What job?"
"Your mom." I put the clothes away quickly, glissading into the kitchen, I hollered around the bend, "how'd you want your eggs?"
"Poached," he huffed, "see if you can get that right."

I realized right away that couldn't.  Somebody somewhere and sometime in his life had offered him up a poached egg and now nothing I could do would meet the precedent of that expectation, even with an inkling of how to poach an egg, which I didn't have, too bad I left the phone in the car I could have googled it. I opted for egg salad and another breathless prayer, G_d please keep him in his chair and out of the kitchen for the next ten minutes.

From the next room I heard him continue "you know," he said at normal volume, as if I was right there on his lap, "I think I am going to call the police."
"You threatened me with that one already.  Just do it already," I leaned around the doorframe, "have you got a license for that gun?"

Since it's all just a game to him, that shut him up, except, it's not a fun game. Out here, dried to pasture as it were, hunting, the mind over seventy sets to strange sport in indifference, in want of authenticity and, I suspect, in some kind staggered atavistic frenzy to live as much as one can between the poles; debilitating bouts of bodily fatigue and general lethargy. The rank goad of being the gristle of a gnawing remembrance.  Shadows aren't enough.  What is enough? He's stuck up here with no one, I'd go crazy too, but Christ would a thank you hurt that bad?

"Why are you still hanging around here?" he asked.
"Just trying to help."
"Ah, well since you pushed me I suppose you feel responsible.  This is all your fault."
"Keep telling yourself that old man."
"Telling myself doesn't do any good.  I'll tell the county commissioner.  Elder abuse."
"That's fair, yeah, you want me to chew this food for you too, when I'm done cooking it?"
"You little bastard."
Then, to twist the knife "Jane says to say hello."

I played at petting the ornamental glassware in the china cabinet, to see what he does with that dangle of bait. A wasp outside the window, spattering around.  When he doesn't respond I set to finish the egg salad, fruit salad, and a couple porkchops ensconce them in glassware, label brightly and set prominently displayed on the otherwise bare topmost fridge shelf, then take it upon myself to leave the dignity of the man intact. A magnet on the fridge door with young Jane's picture, propped up on a soccer ball, her hair braided, her smile resplendent. Loneliness is it's own kind of hunger.  We'll see if these little arpeggios of acrimony can immerse him back into any happier days.  "Your bed is made," I lied, kind of, "call if you need anything else."
"Call you, or your parole office?"
"Thank you sir, may I have another."
"Do let the door hit you on the way out."
"Every little bit helps."

The wind outside feels pregnant with rain.  One thinks of all the embryonic little seeds, tucked away dry in the dust, waiting for the slightest kiss of moisture to blossom.  I turned the car stereo all the way up and cranked the bass for good measure, leaving the little spindly vein roads and rejoining the main artery, the freeway, headed for home, one car among many, beneath that vast wheezing lung of the sky.

'Splozion

Panic ( plan- act )

Panic for breakfast.  Great gangs of panic parading right around the corner. Panic the paragon of forward warnings. That muledeer panic bolts into the road. Panic at a distance, panic at arm's length.  Panic at the lack of pastels in my palette.  Cold panic flapping for the sake of critical reverberation.  Panic for the playful. It could kill you, panic.

Waiting for the double-play at the cobwebbed end of the bench. Observing, at my privileged remove, the flow and counterflow of animal chemistry, breathed youthfully as a roar in the dark park. Smells of sweat and leather. It's not that I don't believe in what Eliot called the inadequacy of the liturgy (language), it's that I don't believe in the adequacy of my vocabulary." Undisciplined squads of emotion lounge and unionize while I say the same five or six things every day by rote, slipping into a black blanket of unarticulated grammatical abrogation.

Panic! And no, not the Ocutbrian powdered horror variety neither. No siree. Panic and it's vast sums of hoarded cash. Ready panic the YA fiction paperback about basketball, seaside hookups, and levitation. Newly optioned.  The parliament of panic and its purgatory of prickled prose.

With age comes weariness, and it's twin dimpled sibling obligation. Oblivion beckons like a fruit pie.  I offered to go elsewhere. Mexico, Greece, the in-laws?
With age, delight us in the illusory spectacle of memory, the artist tracing smoke in the wind. There's wisdom written in that wind, but I wave it away.
Perhaps we are right to dismiss the wisdom of age, for is it not but a pretense? Hard-earned wisdom tells me to dismiss that which once had the ability to delight me, and to dismiss my once-easily delighted self as well. The parched memoirs of Chateaubriand and his palavars with history. Was he meant to be there or was it happenstance and luck?  The chevron streams: the sea swallowed another mile of coastline this century.  I would nap, but there's so much to do.


Why panic? and wither though?  Woah Panic, wooah now girl. Unleash the lethal unknown, you never can tell, panic. Panic, uncaring and noble, precise and on  point. On the phone with a practiced expression of hauteur and repugnance. Panic, ye foolish spectacle. A sheath in the stockings, a bird on the wire.  I don't want panic's snadow anymore. Panic's power is a party I shan't attend.

Caramel in the cooking, I can still delight in slight sweet deviations from the recipe. Can you?  Of course you can. Do you ever consider what people thought about great work before there was a consensus that it was? His eyes upturned, he presented themselves for inspection. That's younger man's shirt, George. Instructions garbled.
Do you ever feel like the bulk of your twenties are spent trying to unconsciously incorporate within your own being the level of day-to-day risk that civilized society deems acceptable? He said "man I don't care. The universe is not smiling at you.  Embrace the insouciant indifference and you'll be better off." He took a salacious bite of bagel then and looked pleased with himself, his smile serene.


The cylinders and conduits of panic in extremis, inappentant, indisposed. Beware the hallmarks of existential panic within your own household, y'all. Pink noxious penetrating tendrils of poisonous panic. Panic containing your heart's tendermost song. Let quickening panic know, I'll be going now. Panic's betrayal of the dream.  Panic: admit one (not valid for special events). Panic such a nice group of people.

In a darkened place we yearn, we grasp for the light, this is not new, or news, and yet and yet those who find the light often fail to leave it shining for others to follow. Like maritime direction, look up not down, for the path below may change minute by minute. Heed my warnings.  I forewarn and foretell and forestall and forgive. Be calm and know. The body, the hands, the faults, are deserving of patience under heaven. Forgive the leaver and the left, forgiven for get thee a lone, find love and give it all away. You're welcome.  Shh.

Tree4ac3

hngr xmtr s7

Boy Oqay
that's what I thought boy
oh boy
was that a mistake.


But how I was I to know? How was any of us?
And lest we not rock down the strange metaphysics of worry and doubt I'll detour shall I a brief digression to explain further:

It was June, yes;m, the week after mother passed and I was staring into a veined-stone ashtray when the cobbled ground suddenly vaulted up as if on a fulcrm into the azure sky and I found myself staring through throbbing blinkered eyelids at the navy blue scrubs stretched taut against the robust outer thigh of an EMT named Kimberly asking rather measuredly if I was alright and if I could hear her.
Yes.  Yes, I suppose so. They offered to take me to the hospital but I demurred, thing is, I had a date with a woman and I was excited to secure her into the cathartic acquaintaince of Chekov's Cognac.  Fate fashions it's own.

That date was cancelled, postponéd, reschedulmont. Here we are in April, Here we are in June, Here we are July 13 gone all too soon.

"So you fainted?" CJ texted, southern belle emoji.
I guess you could call it that says I, attiring myself rightly in genuine shirt with collar to draw attention away from my bloated lower chin.
"And then?" we're waiting from happy gilmore emoji
And then whose thighs these is I think I know.
"Did you know her?"
No. No tie neither nor do I don the Vans, I brandish the bowlers shoes because the smell the least bad and dig the nice pants out from the zanzibarian backwater recesses of my closet.  Seventeen months, gosh. Not prepared but whisked.

The lights off upon arrival. Do I have the right date and time? Wherefore art thine embers in the engine of endurance? After an hour and she ain't shown I texted CJ I dunno asked to stop by since by my calculation his apartment was close-ish.

"Sure" BeourGuestLumiere.gif

Cut to purusal of his record collection, lots of DMB and REM, he said "I gotta say, I'm sorry about your mom."
"Yeah." Strange. By being in space there with him I realized then that that stick-up-your-ass way about him-  that way I didn't like, in person -- was mostly projection, and had in fact entirely gone away while our relationship had gone virtual. He broke out the booze and I protested meekly that I wasn't drinking and a minute later his twelve-pack was gone and a minute after that I was suddenly on the floor again, CJ there with that salubrious tube and a worried look on his face, Zepelin rocking on the hi-fi. A bruise on my head this time.

A quick query online yielded to the dubious bent of bad blood pressure so burdened with this suspicion I fried, the following morn a packet of porkchops for breakfast. The daylight outside greasy on the trees, I chewed and sent some texts and thought of my parents, so tempermentally opposed, hurtling like a stop-motion feather, towards a deep pock of ambivalence, me. Oh boy, I wondered, remembering meals with forced conversation. The more I wondered the quieter the phone became. Strange, I wondered when I'd decided to forgive them both, I sat there alone, smoking.

Boy Oqay
that's what I thought, oh boy but was
 it any a mistake?
How I was I to know? How is any of us?

Tree4ac3

Speaking of Snake Skins: A Monsoon Maskil of Henosis: The Names of Trees

"[The Divine] God is the ground of being."
- Paul Tillich

"I do a lot more walkin' since I wrecked my car"
- Tony Scalzo

"He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made."
- Psalm 7:15

"we seldom ate. we drank"
-Bukowski


Perhaps it was the bad haircut that started it. I've been sitting placidly in the bleached western patio baking like a orange sweet potato in a sweltering progression of sunsets, watching myself morph in the mirror each morning, a fomentation as if in a stop motion animation of the Covid nineteen turning into the 2020 twenty, and now a swell quarantine forty. I don't ever know what day it is. I am staying in the spare room at Quarter's, which is an old ranch house on a fenced-in two-and-a-half-acre lot enveloped in three cardinal directions by "desert," by which I mean fetid cholla and clusters of grass stalks gone crisp and long ago sunbleached of any chlorophyll green by the 105°+ days alongside some stately cauterized saguaros and nothing much else unless you count the red snake holes of which there are many, and the red ant holes, of which there are many more.

Staying at Quarter's is nice because there is always lots of time for doing nothing like texting people I haven't been in touch with since school. Things like you should come out here, or if you come out here you can crash with me, I'm close to the airport.
Close to the airport is, of course, a kind of euphemism for " a 35 minute drive outside of town" but it's nice here. It's quiet, except for Kara, she's been staying the other spare room on the other side of the kitchen and has a tendency to hold loud and increasingly crowded get-togethers two or three nights a week.  But most of the time it's quiet.  Sometimes Jen comes by.  I stopped going over to her place because her little sister is pregnant and her mom is both imuno-compromised and doesn't approve of my family generally or me specifically, so this arrangement suits us distinctly.  Except, I think Jen doesn't like it.  She'll call or text to say she's coming and I put on my garden shoes and wait until the second text arrives to say that she's at the gate and then I walk the long baked dirt path down from the house to the road to unlock Quarter's padlock and heave-ho the old iron gate. She's been calling less and less.
If you're coming this week could you bring some water? I texted her last Tuesday. She left me unread.

Last Wednesday my sister surprised me with a phone call to ask if I could watch over my nephew on Monday as a favor. "He needs a haircut, and I have a job interview, and I can't leave him alone." Flattered by the advance notice I immediately agreed.  Didn't give it any thought at all and would have immediately forgotten all about it and returned to my sorting had she not thrown me a curveball and asked if I'd talked to Dad at all recently.
"No. Why?  Is he alright?"
"Yeah, just asking. You should call."
It gets my attention, but I am not about to call my Dad out of the blue without first giving that some thought so I throw myself deterministically right back into my sorting. Quarter's has great accumulated assemblages of stuff everywhichway you look.  The cars, of course, were in the yard. Mostly.  Some pieces live in the house.   Then there are the industrial kitchen parts, jumbled haphazardly within the otherwise underutilized car port. How he came about acquiring these I do not know yet, although I am looking forward to the story when he is around to tell it.  There is a prodigious afrofuturist-centric record collection in the room with the leaky roof, it's directly under the swamp cooler. A kitchen sink overflowing with flowering mold covered dishes. Mildewy crates filled with pages and pages of god knows what. I joked to Kara that we were placeholders lending credibility to Quarter's drophouse and when she didn't correct me I had that desperate gasping panic that one has when one stumbles a little too close to the truth and I decided that the solution was to get lit.

It's the most viable and easiest of all solutions and after all, I justify to myself, I'm not working.  I mean I am, but not really.  Three teleconferences a month to straighten the arrow on the freelance compass and then I compile and submit the final reports to a blinko file that goes into a server that no one accesses and no one will ever read and it earns me a bi-weekly deposit dropped directly into my bank account with enough dough to score exactly four weeks' worth of liquor at current levels of consumption, or 3.5 weeks' worth if you added in food, 2.5 weeks' worth even with gas money and "rent." Quarter's rules are pretty lenient on rent, judging as we hadn't discussed it and he'd been largely desparace in Mexico or wherever since Christmas.  He stopped in mid-March to pick up some boxes and drop off a truck with no wheels.  He was there for less than an hour. Nice to see you, man.

When I am working working I am working on writing a longform narrative poem about an impending disaster, a kind metaphor for the virus, one picks up hints and implications that there is a planet in the sky getting closer closer and closer, and although I started off briskly enough the more I plug away at it the more it becomes apparent that the pacing is all off and now re-reading what I've done it's starting to feel like less a nuanced explosive-set-piece-laden action-adventure than a real time documentary about a glacial advance on midwinter Nuuk.

Like most people I've largely given up on wearing pants.  Kara's too perpetually stoned to mind.  In June I declined to attend any virtual events on zoom, citing webcam trouble, and since no one said anything I now only join by phone and listen listlessly to the world at large whence pressed solemnly and deliberately on mute.

BUT last Thursday we had a party.  Not one of Kara's regular parties, with the three or four regulars, angry and powerful well-meaning drunks with a blunt each, it was one of those throw-down knock-out parties.  It seemed like everybody came.  Jen came, only I didn't know that until later. I largely stay holed up in my room working on the beer and the poem well into the afternoon until the beer eventually wins out as it is always fated to do in the see-saw of writerly vs fraternal priorities, and when I enter the fray and join some kids in the hallway between the broken casement window and the slate grey settee with the stacks of lavender Motherhood Monthlys they are talking Tik Tok and not looking out the broken window so I take position there, always the guy in the mask of mystery standing at too much of a social distance me.  The trees glow gold in the blaze of the sunset.
"I wish I knew the names of the trees," I confess to Kara's friend Drew who worked as a pizza chef over on 13th Avenue until they closed their doors.  His girlfriend responds because Drew is out of it already.
"Can't be hard to learn.  What are there? Elm, Maple... Ficus?"
"Sumac."
"Sumac, Eucalyptus..."

 There are already, I count, sixteen or seventeen cars outside and a bunch of guys and girls I don't know inside sitting and standing elbow to elbow when Jen texts that she is out front and could I open the gate? There are four other cars in queue by the gate waiting to get in when I go down and up the ditch at the end of the long drive, heave open the gate and let the cars pass. I close the gate and put on my mask to greet Jen who has brought two big 5 gallon jugs in the back of her Dad's truck.
"What's with the mask?"
"What mask?"
"Hide not thy face from me."
"I always wear a mask."
"Not with me you don't, Mister."  She leans in for a kiss and I oblige coyingly.
"Are you aware there's this pandemic going around?"
"I'm not talking about that," Jen says, "not tonight." She puts her hands on her hips and arches to crack her back. "Dueces wild! Look at those stars." I do. It feels a bit in times like this like meditating underwater, to turn your head and suddenly find yourself having been, all along it turns out, in a universe without air or words or symbols.  The night-black knowledge of imperanence permeates the nothingness.  A knowledge that, mixed with the right drugs can manifest itself as dread and more than match my sufficience of constitution. We hold hands and go into the party via the back door to get the water in by the kitchen sink.

The stars are brighter around back. The stars are one of the best things about this place.  You can see the mountains by day, of course, but the nights here are lit.  It would be nicer if we had running water but after a few weeks you hardly miss it.

Keeping the garden alive has been an issue. In April I planted a small vegetable garden in a spot of land cleared of car parts around back by the three trees I don't know the names of, it was only after I realized I didn't have running water that this endeavor became troublesome.  I didn't want my vegetables to die before getting a fighting chance.

"Palm, Fir..."
"Redwood?" I walk into the kitchen to get a drink.  The following are snippets of conversations I overhear at the party at around this point in the night and jotted down in my moleskin, presented here, as there, without context:
—a flashy cop and and international odyssey of datam aggregates
—unruly and mysterious
—don't he bite?
—Chess. But the pieces on the board can change color and identity. Because instability and shifting allegiances are also essential to the game.
—acknowledged and advised
—fueled by spit tests
—retaliated fairly with an inherent contradiction
—metal bleachers, hot popcorn, the game itself of course
—Beginner's Duck. Beginner in the truck, frustrated
— $13, $19, $17.40, no fifty, actually twenty's good.
—That's it. It was pie or death so the key lime piegrimage was cancelled
—Saprophytic Fungi
—Look at that egg, all heart
—without AC sprawled spread eagle on the couch with the fan pointed up her cooch while I'm sit there on the couch in a kind of menstrual breeze
—he offered me a grape and I was like no gremlin.
—operating under the assumption that vowels are weakness


The sequence of events is sped up like time lapse photography in my memory. It was day and then it was midnight and it was happening and I was sober and happy and then reality broke into the kind of blisteringly drunkenness that makes world appear to be comprised entirely of a series of geometric color patterns like you might see on a church basement quilt.

Hungover days are largely squandered, evaporated, as if by dehydration but mostly in guilt.  Jen is not pleased to observe upon my waking that I am curled into the corner futon with a girl named Emma, fully dressed, I protested, hungoverly, but still, it created a headsplitting momentary scene which was interrupted by  Quarter's men showing up, what is that, Murphy's Law or whatever, anyway it's exactly what happened. Two of them at the door, at least two more outside by the truck but I don't hold the door open long enough to tally, the daylight stings my brain. Jen storms out before the door is fully closed. Quarter's men set to work picking up some bags of stuff of Quarter's in the back and I would have set to work brushing my teeth but the bristles hurt my gums so I settle in on a nine volume compendium of Christian mysticism in spanish that I find leaning lopsidedly in the dusty innards of a cracked and disused terrarium.

When I wake up later the sun is setting and I saunter into a living room smelling of wet laundry and menthols.  Just Kara and her sister, and Jobi, the uber driver nee actor, playing Xbox. They offer me some spicy chicken.
"Is a cactus a tree?"
Jubi says "a cactus stores up all this water in its trunk or whatever as soon as it rains and holds it there all summer until the monsoons come and then it sucks up all the water of the monsoon and uses that flush to flourish and make new cactuses that do it all over again."
"Cacti." I correct him.
"Cacti." Jubi affirms.
"They're also," I add, "prickly and painful as fuck to get close to."
"Remind you of anyone?"

I go outside to kicking some trash around the horse nettles and water the garden soil under the three trees I don't know the names of.  It doesn't look good. Inside again I crack a beer and on impulse call my Dad out in the 505. It rings four times and then goes to voicemail.  I hang up. Within seconds my phone is buzzing as he is calling back but I can't do it.

On Saturday Kara and her sister and I and Kara's new boyfriend Dionysis go into town for a supply & water run. At the Salvation Army they don't have any books on trees. The library has them in stock, it shows this in the online inventory, but the hyper localized variety guide was a book meant for kids and the North America Guide seems too broad to be useful.  Plus, the library is closed except for curbside pickup. "I don't think these trees are local anyway" I tell Kara's sister.  She ignores me. She is busy picking at a large band aid on her sickly pink inner arm. Kara and Dionysis start getting dramatic and it's hot enough in the car to roast a turkey so I text Jen asking if she wants to meet up at the park to talk and she texts right back be right there so I get out of the car and walk to the park and meet her in front of a bench that's cordoned off from sitters with police tape, thanks covid, and while Jen's mom's dog runs around collar-less we sit a little less than six feet away from each other in the white landscaping rocks and watch instructional videos on arboreal care on my phone and that leads to a music video of the song that plays during the tree care video, and that leads to Uptown Funk.
"He makes it look so easy," I say.
"Yes," she sighs in agreement. I remember about the haircut, and my nephew, and ask how she thinks I should get it cut. She sighs again, for emphasis aparently. "You're a mess," she says.
I take this as a compliment. To be honest I had actually started to think I was blending in out here in the desert, but feigning ignorance I respond "I don't know what that means."
"I'm sorry.  The haircut would be a nice start."
"A nice start? A nice start toward what?"
She sighs a third time.  "Nevermind."
"No, I want to know.  Whaddaya mean?"
"It's just... I don't want to talk right now.  It's... don't you think you could be doing so much... I don't know ... more? I don't think you know how much potential you have. I don't know what you're waiting around here like this for."
Dangling participle.  "Do you mean at the park?"  She sighs again forcibly this time and gets up to walk back to the car so I walk with her.
"Did you know," I ask, "that when Parliment went on tour in support of Motor Booty Affair the guy who designed their road costumes based them on the cartoon illustrations that he himself had made for the album cover?"
"I'm more into country," she says "you know that. And Kelly Clarkson. And Bruno Mars of course."
 "Your undifferentiated aesthetic continuum is a swampy jungle to me."
We reach her mom's car and I lean in for a kiss but she demurs and looks wounded. "I'm serious," she says " You are just surfing this, this curlicue current of energy that you could do so so much with if only..."
"If only there weren't this virus."
"I'm not talking about that."
"What are you talking about?"


Sundays are religiously boring and filled with the quotidian routines of domesticity. I take a walk around early in the morning and imagine how high the waters will mark upside the embankment when the rains finally come.  I buy the paper for the sports page because since March it's been little more than a history page. I listen to a sermon online and light some Turkish incense to mingle in the mystery of its wavery whispery smoke. The swamp cooler snarls. I stare at the wall, pondering.  Plotinus wrote that the highest possible accomplishment of man is the tabula rasa, the blank state where the individual may grasp the source, merge with the One, dissolve one's personhood and become absorbed back into the primordial substance which is the substance of all things, the uncaused cause. We live within the confines of rules we never made. My fingers faintly register a declining volume of toothpaste in the tube. Settling in, my unfinished poem blinks despondently on the computer screen as the day persists unto purple ochres that drop ominously into the simple dark tone of midnight.  I decide to try my Dad again and this time he answers on the first try.
"Well hello sorry I missed you the other day I was just coming back from the doctor's and I didn't make it to the phone in time."
"It's okay."
"What's new? Written anything good lately?"
"All roads lead to Rome," I say.
"It's good. Not original tho." I can hear the fan he keeps at the foot of his recliner rustling unremittingly in the background. "How's the weather?"
"Holding up. Guy took me out to the ranch on Tuesday. Corn's coming along." I don't know what to say to this so I say nothing and listen to his fan.  He continues, "how's the weather there?"
"No rain yet."
"It'll come. Always has done. You alright for money?"
"Sure.  Just checking in."
"I appreciate it. Your sister says you're doing well."
"She's got an interview tomorrow."
"So I heard. You mean later today."
"Oh yeah I guess that's right.  I'd best be getting to bed.  I'm in charge of the little man tomor- later today."
"Get some rest. Give him my best.  Thanks."
"For?"
"Checking in."


Two days in town in a week. Time has really all begun to run together, past and possible futures and intolerable present, before eight A.M. is a bit early for me but my ten year old nephew is the bright eyed wunderkid genius of the morning when he runs to Quarter's door, my anxiety-ridden sister honking goodbye from the road as she peels out. My nephew says he gets up every day between 6 AM to 6:15 AM and then asks me to retie his shoelace, smells our green refrigerator bread and proceeds to tell me about 262 different Pokemon varieties, their strengths, weaknesses, and revolutions.  This lasts throughout my getting dressed, nuking and scarfing some breakfast hot pockets, and making the drive into town, despite even a brief attempt to drown him out with a new Killers song on the radio that I immediately dislike and turn down as I catch his unspoken reproach in the review, "and and then Arbok evolves from the Ekans and and it can, it can coil its body and squeeze it's opponents in battle."

He wears chino shorts and a striped Oakley sweater even though it is already over 90° outside, a burgeoning mullet testifies to his need for the haircut and I note, not without a surprising amount of felicitous joy, that he smells like milk cinnamon cereal and Johnson & Johnson soap.  When we get off at 22nd we take off our hats, put on our masks and enter the Fast Cutz.  I pick out the picture on the wall of the stylization I am looking for, short sides and back, and my nephew announces he wants one too. They call him first. There are four on shift even though the room has eight stations.  Gotta keep six feet apart. One of the girls, a real looker, about 5'5" curly gunpowder black hair dyed in stages to blonde at the ends, all perfectly coifed and dressed in a tenebrously bohemian patterned blouse and ripped jeans beneath her black company apron, finishes with some grandma and approaches the dais to read off my name.  She's an alto. I like that. When I stand her eyes widen and she greets me and escorts me back to the perch. I like the way she is attractive and eager. Attractively eager?
"Hows it gunna be?" she asks.  Is that a challenge?
"You tell me sweetheart."
She suppresses a giggle and makes eyes in the mirror at one of her cohorts who had immediately looks up to catch our reflection. "Oho! So yr a risk taker, huh?"
"You know it." I grin big but beneath the face mask it doesn't show. "Short sides and back."
"Like a Number 1 short?" she holds up an attachment "close to the skin short or..."
"Surprise me." Her cosmetology school certificate is propped against the hairspray and mousse at the workstation in front of me but I can't quite make out her name, font too small.  Amber?  Alma?  Derbyn? Hard to tell.  I wondered what her face looks like beneath her mask.

As a habitual rule of thumb I always tend to imagine the worst of all possible facial deformities are being concealed by those wearing facemasks, an imaginative predisposition that has been hard to reconcile with our current reality. I can imagine her chiseled cheekbones coming in for a bright tapered ovoid incisor margin smile, a slight dimpled chin perhaps, maybe a beauty mark...
She asks "y'think we're gonna get that rain?"
"Not yet.
"I heard there was a 10% chance tonight."
"That's a 90% chance it'll be dry." She laughs but it is a fake laugh. God she's beautiful.  The unattainable kind.  Barler? Helen? Ennisa?  I watch in the mirror as she cuts off more and more hair, realizing too late that I probably should have been a bit more specific, a bit less cavalier. This realization comes too late for my hair, as just then she terses without warning and sneezes. I feel a sharp concise sting.

"Oh fuck." she scoffs.  "I am. so. sorry." The room holds it's breath, the ambient noise adjusts to an augural quiet.  She spins me around so I can see the square patch of bare skin spot center of the back of my head.
"What did you—" I stammer, "what can you do?"
There is nothing she can.  There is nothing anyone can do that will make it better.
My nephew looks good without his mullet though.

Back in the car we put our hats back on and get a drive thru lunch of chicken nuggets and milkshakes. Well he does.  I go by the mart for a SanTan tallboy. Moon Juice. "It could be worse," my nephew says from the back seat, "I mean, with your hat on it's not that bad, you can only see a little of it."
Reaching back to feel the spot, I recognize and appreciate that he is only trying to console me. We don't talk the rest of the way back to Quarters where I tell him to go play in the yard. "Practice your driving," I say, pointing to the jumble of the derelict cars while I walk down the drive to the road to check the mailbox.  Somewhere a dog barks.  In the box are bills and politicians and an early birthday card featuring a shaggy mopey dog wearing a superhero mask.  It reads "super bitch its your birthday" with a five spot.
I take a snapshot with phone to send to my brother, and then a back-of-the-head selfie of my mangled haircut to Jen.
She texts bad a scrunchie face emoji and then: We can't keep going on this way.  I think we need to take a break.

Walking in the house I feel sticky and freighted with humidity and humiliation. Kara takes one look at me and cackles. Like, immediate, head-in-her-knees keel-over-to-the-floor laughter.  "Fuck happened to you?"
"I know. It's the worst." She is already uploading my mugshot onto her Instagram as I grab the smoldering bowl off the coffee table and help myself to a double hit, deep lung laundering tokes to clear my head in smoke.
Then I take a shot. The 90 proof that we keep on the high shelf. Heading for oblivion with the scabrous divinity.

To understand and know anything it is essential that the understanding of the knower be adequate to the thing to be known, so to embrace the contours of the infinite light we must evanesce ourselves and our tensions and our egos into dissolute unknowability.  Close the door, turn the fan on high and lay down.

The next thing I know its the long shadow hour of late late afternoon and Kara has opened my door and is peaking her head in and whispering "Where's your nephew?"
"He didn't come inside?"
"He did for a bit but you were sleeping so he went back out.  Just seeing if he's with you. It's been a little while."

I scan the horizon and I hear it before I see anything.  A kind of wailing. High and not too far off.  I run down the patio steps, hopping over the western chain link I saw him right away behind a straw brown yucca.  He is on the ground yowling, curled into a capital G, his hands gripping his right ankle.  I kneel down to him and and he cries and yowls louder.
"What was it buddy?"
"S-s-s-s-snake."
"Did you see it?" He shakes his head.  I can see now that his achilles tendon is swollen and red, about the size of an apple. "Did you see it?"
"I didn't see it, I felt the bite," he cries, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"It's okay. Didn't you hear the rattle?"
"I didn't hear the rattle" he cries again.

Kara and Dionysis join me and I tell them to call an ambulance.
"I ain't calling no fucking ambulance," Kara says.
"Call an ambulance!"
Dionysis says that he'll get his truck. He runs off. Kara kneels down to comfort and console and in a minute I hear the metal ting of Quarter's padlock, the steel whine of the iron gate, and then the truck engine starting up with a roar. I and look around, frantically, for the snake.  Red touches black and you're okay jack, red and yellow'll kill a fella. I don't see any snake, just plenty of hidey holes, cholla spikes everywhere and the the velutinous and impenetrable prickly pears.  Dionysus reappears saying "let's go" and I pick my nephew up out of the dirt, cradling him just like I did when he was three and fell asleep on the couch, only now hyperconscientious of his tender and mewl-inducing ankle, and I carry him back over to the fence and gracefully palce him across into Dionysis' waiting arms on the other side, who then races him the sixty paces or so to the passenger seat of the truck.  Kara hops in the other side to occupy the middle seat and I notice then that the truck is parked right under the third tree, a deep tire rut runs straight back through the very soft brown center of my carefully manicured garden soil.
"You can't park there!" I shout.
"Why not?"
"It's, that's, those are my flower beds."
Dionysis does a double take and squints at the dirt and at me before hopping in the truck and slamming the door behind him.
"Man your flowers are dead."

Most evenings this time of year the faroff fullness of dark monsoon clouds advances northwest up the ranks of the wide desert valley where Quarter's house lays sponged in the pages of twilight by a setting convection oven sun and this year it's already a month late and I watch the heat lightening and the dark rain clouds so close, so far, and its all happening so slowly I can feel the sweat running down my crack at a faster clip. Sun, sweat, moon, monsoon.  The summer rains will take care of everything right?  Isn't that what they do?  Bring the desert back into green life, wash away the snakeskin we shed, all this fucked up everything, and deliver us from this bleak neverending present into a less bleak newly washed future.  The past is like the grime behind my shoe tongues. I'm just waiting for the rains to come, sitting placidly in the bleached western patio looking for a way to feel hope.  But even if the rains do come, then what? After that is just another long long drying out again, we all regrow our skin and it hardens and cakes and when does it all end?

I've already called my sister. When they text from the Emergency Room that he's doing fine and going to be fine I forward the text immediately to my sister who says Thnx, here and my ruinous babysitting career is over.  My hair, my garden, my relationship with my sister, my relationship...
"I don't know who you are anymore," says Jen.  Where'd she come from? I don't know.  Her eyes are wet and her arms are crossed.
"I'm just a guy telling a, telling stories."
"Ha!  That's a crock and you know it. Only those with power tell stories. You tell stories about other people but you, you don't have any power at all anymore.  If anything your story will be told by somebody else."
"I could tell my story if I wanted to."
"You couldn't and you can't because you don't want to because you're so full of secrets and if you let your secrets out then you think that people have power to wield over you. It's like you're sabotaging your own life so you can remain unknown to yourself and it's just hurting the people around you and it's hurting you and it hurt your nephew today, I heard, and it's hurting me."
"Did my sister tell you."
"Yeah. She says essentially he's going to be alright. No thanks to you."
"I know, she just texted." Jen snorts and leans against a stack of baked bricks and I realize that my head is throbbing, or is it a cicada reaching some hidden crescendo?
"What the fuck is the matter with you?"
"Just, nothing. I mean I guess I'm just fucked up by the neuroses of modern masculinity right?"
"Fuck that. Do you even have any idea why I'm upset with you right now?"
"Because..." Have to think about that one, "because I stopped coming over to your place?"
"No. I'm mad because your buddy Quarter's dickhead drug lackeys fucking assaulted me the other night at the party and when I went to find you so you could help get me out of here you were so deliriously drunk that you were scaring your friends so I lay you down on the futon with Emma and luckily Kara's boyfriend was there and was a real gentleman and he had to escort me to my car because those assholes, your friend Quarter's friends, wouldn't fucking leave me alone.
"I had no idea."
"No you didn't. And then I came back out here the next morning to check on you even though my sister told me I shouldn't and you were just ... awful. What are you even fucking doing right now?  I'm sorry for swearing but not really sorry because this is a shitty place for you to be and when are you going to get your head out of your ass and notice that?"
"It's not that shitty.  Plus the monsoon will be here soon."
"Ugh! Why can't you just be serious and see what's in front of you?  Take off your masks."
"It's not safe."
"Aren't I safe?"
"The world isn't safe."


Later still, inside, the angry drunks are laughing fiendishly but, oddly enough, friendly too, toward Dionysis' exploits on the video game.
"Watch out nigga!"
He laughs like "Houh houh houh houh."
"Shiiit," says Kara.

My moleskin notebook sits on top of my dirty garden shoes, which are next to a book I haven't seen before.  Must be a gift from Jen. The Sibley Guide to Trees.

Laurel, larch, Banyan, cherry, elm, oak, dogwood, ash, pine, catalpa, magnolia, acacia, mesquite, apple, orange, birch, aspen, palm, sycamore, hickory, walnut, willow, linden, juniper, alder, sequoia, spruce, yew

I should write this down.  I open my laptop and I also open up my notebook, to set the muse's top in motion, as it were. I find the snippets of conversations overheard at the party. I start to work.
At midnight it starts raining.  I finish my writing and knowing it's not great but it's a start I go outside with a beer, and a cigar, to celebrate and watch and feel and rest. It's really coming down now. I'm not going to show you the poem. I'll give you a hint though: At the end of the poem is silence.

Tree4ac3

non·co·a·les·cent

Need characters.
Need characters with things in their mouths.
Words.  Reedeming words, and actions.  Foul actions, worthy of speechifying redemption.  Words and vows, that's what we need?
"Hey have you read my book?  I was called Number One Best Seller."
She chuckles agreeably. "No."
"I wrote it in a library," looking for solace after having ended a love affair I don't tell her 'by the author of The Best Book in the Bargain Bin'
"Aww, don't say that."
We have stayed up.  So far into the night that it's dawn and the hot tea has for about a half an hour now been cold tea and the cold beer has long been warm.
"What kind of characters?"


Boys in street clothes on patrol by the east side orange line. There's a bulletin bass beat in the background.  They open a grimy unmarked door and head down, the music immediately sounds muffled, good sound design that, and they enter into an underground farm, fresh green, foods and non-food growing in an unused car park "and shipping containers," says one man, pulling open his desk drawer and pulling out a paper.
"See, there's dialogue."
"Welll," she draws it out "half dialogue."
"Yes, truth be told.  You're right."
"What's his name?" Emphasis on the his because I haven't told her all of mine yet. Not ready.
"We'll call him Ono."

"Don't forget the shipping containers." Ono hands a laser-printed color map to a bearded man we haven't met yet. Reds and blues. The boys in street clothes open the door but domino into each other when they realize they are walking into a private meeting.
"Hey!" Ono yells, "beat it matones."

"They exuent."
"That's, what is that? Shakespeare?"
"Alright, they hot-step it outta there."
"That's better."

"Chingon tacuaches," says Ono. "We've got business to attend to."
The boys, largely unfazed save for the eldest among them, decide to stop by Walmart for a virus test and a delicious Pepsi.

"Product Placement?"
"Could be."
"What is this meeting about?"
"What meeting?" I hear and feel my phone vibrating within my pants pocket.
YOU ARE FULL OF CONTRADICTIONS
Ill timing for this text.  Timing never was one of our strengths.


By way of explanation for this textual aside, I'll relay a short anecdote from last week:
I had just returned from my monthly Taoist Kumbhaka Scuba group and was thus preparing, as has become my wont, to put off paying all of my bills for another month in accordance with the principle that it's inadvisable to spend more money than you have. The real solution to the problem of paying bills likely lies in the practice of not spending more than I have on frivolities, but that's neither here nor there, as they say.  I had just put on the VR headset for a quick catatonic romp around a digital hyperreality when the faker herself texted.
Her ringtone is a .wav file of a muezzin's call to prayer I ripped from a Steven Seagal movie.
It had been nearly half a decade since our secret bodies made up a shared geometry, the kind of pattern we called love, and staying "in touch" since had been a perilous game of one-upsmanship that had forced me here over this threshold without any easy or clear road back.
It turns out she saved the pictures.  The day before I would have sworn that her mother burned them for her.
"Your mother is always doing things for you" I complained once, feeling a cathartic rush at the charging escape of this long withheld admission.
"That's what mother's are for.  That's what other people's mothers do! That's what your mother did. Things! For other people."
"Yes but..." She asked HOW ABOUT THESE OLD PICS I FOUNDNo question mark and yet still a question. I evaluated: My jawline looked sharper.  Her smile unforced, eyes tired, pale arm flesh I could almost smell, feel...
THAT SHIP HAS SAILED

I am these days still learning how to communicate consistently without feeling like my every word needs to be perfect lest I put-upon someone a disappointing vaguary and here we are texting again in the midst of my predawn recitation.
I am not perfect.  I am getting better.  I am full of contradictions.  Why argue?

SO, EMPTY, YOU MEAN?

A pregnant pause and a furtive look.

VOLUMINOUSLY she texts back.  As if that sets the matter to rest. It is always easiest to rehearse what needs be said beforehand. Lucky to this time have a script. Need characters.

I take a moment, grip my fingers around the phone, she pretends to be waiting patiently and oblivious, bless, I let the script run through my head a moment before it is time for continuing:

"Anyway, back to the story," the matter set to rest,
the boys play race-car-driving heroic thief, rapper, lover, victor over all weaklings and rival mercenaries. Joysticks at the ready.
"I liked the '05 but they really messed up the design with the 2008," says one of the older ones, pulling rapidly on his plastic trigger.
The smaller one flounders and squirms, as if this kind of death can hurt, then his avatar spawns elsewhere.  Ono enters using his special whole-intimidating-bodyframe walk and the older boy quickly turns off the monitor prompting an "Awww" from the younger boy raising his arms to the heavens, turning around, seeing Ono and jumping up into formation with the others.  Quite the regiment.
"Idiotas," says Ono pulling out a pistol and holding it to the chest of one of the boys in the middle, "tell me why I shouldn't fucking blow you away right now?" The boys quiver in unison not sure if he's kidding nor willing to risk it by making a run for it.
"B-b-but, but, but"
"What is it?"
A stream of liquid pools around his jiggling tattered pant heals.  Ono juts the pistol up into the kid's chin then just as quickly puts it away and turns to get drink from the barely-working fridge.
"Infants!" he yells away from them, "fucking infantile."

"Sorry man," says the older boy.
Ono ignores him, cracking the last of the Pepsi "Do you have any idea... If we don't expand then I don't get paid.  If I don't get paid you can't get your reward."
"Sorry, we didn't know."
"Did you check the air flow numbers on all the units?"
"Yeah."
"Did you plug in the numbers?"
The kid looked down at this shuffling his feet but, Ono noted, did not try to run "Not yet."
"Get it done." The kid nods and breaks out a cracked laptop from his backpack, pecking entries from a dirty notepad into a spreadsheet and while the others idle, chattering in whispers and not looking over to where Ono has sprawled out legs akimbo on the musty couch.

Ono ignores them all and weighs the day.  The meeting with McGuire had gone well.  He can start to map out the expansion pragmatically now instead of in imaginary returns.
He has already broken it down into stages, maintain production quantity and modestly diversify output was obviously Stage One, since that's what had gotten him there.
Stage Two was to acquire more lights, filtration, tubing, etc... Then came Stage Three which had two parts 1) pay off the lease on the car park and 2) the shipping containers.
Extra labor for harvest and deliveries would have to be worked into the plan once production ramped up.  Hypothetical stages Four through Six needed to be further subdivided into steps for this and other concerns.
He could feel himself getting excited.

Once his heartrate got going on this, that, or the other his lusts would get the better of him.


"That's about as far as I've got."
"A real good start," she says distractedly "kind of violent." Having anticipated that particular evaluation I shake my head in consent.
"I didn't mean to bog it down in technicalities there at the end.  But it's probably going to all sequeway into smoke, toke, and a poke and then a showdown set piece later on." I wish I could say I'd planned this.
She asks, "what are we going to do today?"
"I thought I'd do this," I say before realizing the exclusivity of the endeavor.  I can't very well sit there all day and write wannabe Gen Z Horatio Alger crime fiction while she sits chin-in-hands all doe-eyed watching.
"For a while sure, but I want to go out later," she says, kissing my forehead and skiffling off barefoot to the kitchen.
What am I even doing?


After the breakup I floated around for a few too many months losing credibility, adorability, about 35 pounds, and when I came-to I found myself taking Modernist Fiction Thursday nights at the community college and the few firing neurons that my brain had left- like the surviving proto-chimps after the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs- were dedicating themselves to the art of the long-form short story.
The semester ended with a group of us going out for drinks at Blevin's Water Hole and wouldn't you know it, three to six drinks later she's sitting next to me and we're comiserating about our exes. She's single. I'm single. She's attractive in that four-leaf clover kind of way of not quite believing what you're seeing until you pick it up and pinch it so I did and here we are, still not quite either of us believing it.
She's a vet tech.  I'm a wounded animal, no, I kid, I'm still devoting myself to the short story because why poisen the well that saved you, but because I neither possess nor desire the kind of control over one's life that lends itself to lifelong commitments we are officially without status and believe you me it's been weighing on me.


Except that it wasn't exactly overnight that this happened.
Not many people know this and fewer still care but the reason that we ended up moving in together as fast as we did had to do with a decision that I made late one night or early morning six months ago exactly.


We'd met at the end of the fall semester, so we'd been "dating" properly for the entirety of winter break which on New Years dawned on me as the height of pomposity, I wrote that phrase down.  What was I even doing trying to ruin somebody else's life by enjoining it into a relationship with my own.
I mean,  I'm not cruel, I don't do beatings, and I'm not stupid or lazy, but I am conceited and selfish. Upon sober reflection I am not immune to the tactile and largely otherwise imperceptible methods employed by society to scare frightened habituated indubitable bachelors like me into conformity, commonality, and complacency, especially around the dark midwinter firesides of holiday hearths.
I'm not religiously, entirely, or intrinsically against these things of course. However, I definitely am not interested in becoming the kind of people who say "oh you know General Paul and Lovey Garcia?  The General Garcias? Oh yes we know them socially too. Well tah dahling!" We'd had a great Christmas and New Year's together and my bubbling doubts about what exactly I was doing, what "we" "meant" coalesced into the furtive anouncement via text message on Thursday after work that I was
GOING OUT DRINKING WITH DENIS

This was not a categorical falsehood.  I was going drinking for sure.  I just failed to invite Denis along. Forgot.  Oops.

I started at the Water Hole and stewed in a few of my own doubts until after sundown and then I really started cooking when I emigrated to the Diving Board and then the Mercury, thinking seriously about not thinking seriously at these and several other places where the drinks are cheaper in twos and more fun as chasers.

The wind was blowing strong that night I remember, and the next thing I remember I was face to face with a ginger bearded ominous heap of a man who looked me in the eye and asked
"have you ever let the portals of your mind dissolve into clouds?"
My answer was a mix between a couch and a retch.  I remember how matted his locks of hair looked, how ruddy the skin around the eyes, like leather, dark dot eyes like a wild animal.  Deep, shimmering, terrifying. He poked me with a cracked crooked finger and grinned a mostly toothless grin when I squirmed and swore.
We were sitting in a ditch beyond the grain silo. He dragged himself up and dusted at his backside with mud dirt hands then yanked some litter-looking flotsam into a rickety shopping cart and moseyed off into the night.


I wouldn't go so far as to say that I felt a kinship with the guy but I do remember vividly feeling like my life was like that shopping cart.  The trips, the photographs, the experiences, all nothing more than accumulations that I'm dragging around in a borrowed shopping cart.

From the kitchen she half shouts "are you going to eat all of this?"
Passively communicating, subtextually, my latent inadequeacy, my expanding beltline. Why she chose to make the move I can't for sure say.
The ground sure feels strange, underneath her intentions all sorts of shapes that I can't make out but I'm bracing for a real doozie when the honeymoon wears off.
"You can have some," I holler back mockily too-loud.  Drenched in desire to be alone that is suffused with suffering over aloneness one hears a distinct tone of realization that there are times we need others on the path, like signs to show us the way.
Here we are, weaned off of pain by passion and thinking we're living in the land of milk and honey, when the milk is at best past it's expiration date and the honeycomb is filled with wasps. I am empty.  We all are.
"Thnkss" she says, her mouth full.


Need characters.
Need characters with things in their mouths. Maybe a gunfight, retribution.  Some words and vows, that's what we need. Quickly though, we're going out tonight.
That's what we need.
That's what we need.

Red and Waits

We're Cool (it's) Whatever; a Culmination.

"Sir, please get out of the car"
I shiver in the evening air, having cut down the
tree that she
asked me
to remove, all afternoon, I
have earned this beer. Are she wants

She wants

She wants me to be twice the man I am, and the only
the only i d o n e o u s ve
ctor toward which I can see
that happening
is through long and steady work
consuming more beer.

Kidding. Kidding.
"Sir,"
Ellipses this. Then, now,
(nowandthen)
back at the apartment that we had,
/(j'are you still with me?)
j'ust outside the claustral city/
absorbed in art while the city burns around
me in unfathomability, a man in a mask
in a world of maske d'men
and women'd
ecision'd then that now we needed a bo
nfire like in dayes auf auld.
(Specifically 2013)
a concave body attired in a tired costume
and complexion gonna have a
go
at a
 burn.

Today I have the word hemorrhage
swimming
swimming
repeatingly
sir
in my brain.

I think about that last trip to the beach, before ever
ything changed. The pictures still recent still
 accessible on my phone ga
llery atop the terrible
gray grim winter ones in that small town
way up where I do
n’t want to live;

cigarettes and road trips
lost friendships
Sir you
veforgottenwhat love is

But of course I haven't. What I have
 forgotten is what I figured
out what I figured out
was how to be who I really was always
cleansed by memories sh
e's haunted by he
rs, sir,  help us arrange a way around
the sovereignty of fickle fate
his gape or grin (applause)
just between us is this for real?
What do you want?
the shape and flavor of your intentions
your mom's Che
vyequinox, lettuce
pause to parse the particulars
"please sir"

A fiery pink and dusty sunset, a spring evening still
warm enough with the promise of summer
lingering like a threat
It's nice to not have to look nice
I suppose
(she fills)
some sort of need for enchantment, for bewitching bewitchment
lettuce pause to parse the
sleep deeper than
the cave that first corona bat
flew out of and dreams
 and feelings
masked a hateful invective like a bee sting
"walk 15 paces in
 a
s t r a i g h t li
ne" it's fine we're fine
a line
does
n't end so the end
is the same
as the beginning

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