fiction, photography

HEIRLOOMS

Chris R-0883 Image by Christine Renney

In the past, when we argued, I would often throw something. Now words are enough as over the years I have become more adept at hurling them and I no longer need to rely something inanimate. If I happened to be holding a mug I would throw that and, after retrieving the largest surviving part, I’d throw that again and again. Or I might reach and grab for something close at hand, an ornament or a trinket made from china or glass, something that would break, something that would smash. If I happened to be holding a book then I would throw that. It wouldn’t break of course, not even after I had kicked it and stamped on it. Books don’t come apart or at least not easily. Try for yourself, take one down from the shelf, a paperback, open it in the middle and try to rip it in two. It can’t be done. In order to destroy a book you need to act methodically, to tear the pages one at a time. I have done this, but only once.
I hadn’t read the book but I remember it was ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoevsky. As I started to rip out the pages, T… watched but she quickly tired and, exasperated, she went to bed. ‘The Idiot’ is a big book but I persevered until each and every page lay at my feet. In the heat of the moment a book is decidedly unsatisfactory. A mug, on the other hand, is ideal. A mug will bounce unscathed across a carpeted floor time and again. Six, eight, even ten times, before it will begin to chip and crack and, when it does, when it breaks, something snaps and in the silence we are able to make things right again. To scrub at the coffee stains and sweep up the pieces, although for weeks afterwards, we find bits of the mug lodged here, there and everywhere.

T… was frightened by my outbursts and believed if I didn’t react in this way that I would lash out and strike her. But it was only when the argument really took root, when it wouldn’t stop, that I would throw and break something. Of course, it wasn’t always a mug but sometimes things that were much more valuable and difficult to replace. Heirlooms, things that had been passed down and things we had bought together and which, over time, would have come to mean so much more. I won’t bore you with a list but I did once break a clock, a wedding present. I lifted it from the mantle and flung it to the floor. I kicked it, stood and stomped on it. Grinding the glass and the face and the mechanism until all of the tiny parts, the cogs and the washers and the wheels, were embedded in the carpet. Later, we hadn’t any choice but to carefully and painstakingly pick them out.

I am now aware, however, that T… has begun to replace some of the things I have destroyed from our past. I wouldn’t even have noticed if it hadn’t been for the book, not even the clock, but there it is up on the mantle, exactly the same although of course it isn’t. I wonder how she did it, how she managed to find it? And I would like to ask but how can I, how can we talk about this?

After finding the book and taking it down from the shelf, I carry it with me and begin to wander through the house, searching the rooms and discovering item after item, things I won’t list, not now, not here. I’ve told you about the book and about the clock and that’s enough. And the mugs of course, although they don’t matter, mugs are inconsequential; you use one only for so long and then replace it. Eventually I sit and start to read ‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a copy of the book I desecrated long ago. It has the same cover, a sky blue border and the same painting on the front. ‘Portrait of Ivan Pochitonov’ by Nikolai Dmitrievich although of course these details I don’t remember.

T… comes into the room and, noticing the book, she asks quite coolly, ‘Haven’t you read that before?’.
‘I started once but didn’t finish it,’ I reply, ‘and I’ve decided to try again.’

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prosetry

Post, Scripted

P.S. – Believe me, I’m not trying to embark on some regular correspondence, just offering a splat snap smattering of uncalculated afterthoughts and feeling Los Angeles as if it were a psychological condition but I’ll leave you to decide what that means

and what it means to ask more than wonder or think whether we—you and I, addressor and addressee—feel obliged to act like less because so many think they’re more, countermeasures and weights we must, it seems, imagine as some kind of silent unsteady change and there I went saying “we,” you’ll notice, you will, as if to even out the statement so… well… so its mass doesn’t feel all mine, if I have to be honest, looking for at least one other pair of kindhearted, tired shoulders for baring, some way to share the load

because I need help and won’t say it in the body sometimes but will in the afterword, hidden tacked on and down below where it can stand as said but might just as well be overlooked all the same, help feeling that it has to mean something beyond image or projection or—god forbid—market value, our thoughts and sentiments, our dreams and wonderment, our sentience, something, anything without the flying buttresses of ego mystification and all those self-ful things which look so grand in person but not on them

just like how it has to mean something—maybe two somethings—to say something dimly earnest and American with the brow furrowed and eyes wide and glazed like: Same loving kindness for “them” as for “us” and maybe even for a police force of lowly paranoids but these times make that maybe big and make that saying seem to mean more than the first fact of the speaking matter which is that I know more or less how to put the face on like all the rest of them the juxtaposers and equivocators yes them as opposed to us and where do you think the honest truth lies in that, in this the spirit of our age.

Or the spirit of our we-weight, for that more or less unspoken speaking matter, the spirit of rhetorical dissatisfactions word-turned mutual and voice-made real, we like two grains of sand in a scale pan held way up high in the clouds while the world of bricks and mortar and the hard evidence of scientized deceit keeps the other side grounded in a truthishness I purport to despise while looking straight at you and plagiarizing and no one is any much more the wiser even when I say, wide and furrowed, And that was no lie. It was instead the best kind of truth, the one that means at least two things, saying without quote or attribution and to you it just feels like déjà vu, just more talk and dream

of reaching to you from across an expanse I don’t acknowledge because fear makes the wolf bigger than he is and so in my fantasies I talk like this in these fits and stops and fragments all around and through the central thesis, an act like wrapping it up the fear for you, a gift in the darkness for both of us, creating a both of us, and so I go on and on recollecting, stealing, plucking anything that mind thought time brings, memories and phrases from over here on my side in the matted grass like so much rotten fruit but not without a sense of stench and a pinching twinge, if honest I must be, from the daemon close beside with “hypocrisy” whispers on his forked tongue, “hypocrisy,” he says, “you don’t wish to share, to be, only to be wanted”

and so I say these things down here like this in the post script on the under and back behind side nipping at your elbows, treading on your heels, nudging saying look, if you’re inclined to see, how interesting, see, imagining what you’d think of how some other grain of sand—or maybe salt—once said “The only minds which seduce us are the minds which have destroyed themselves trying to give their lives a meaning” and throwing it out there as a smoke screen signal from across that chasm to conceal the real question which is

what would you think if at the end of this if after this at the end of this I finally shut up and told you that when I try to write a poem all that comes out is bad prose and if literature is equipment for living then who am I outfitting with faulty gear and broken hinges and fraying bootlaces, wishing I had an ounce of the ability to destroy my mind trying to give my life meaning and wondering who else feels this way, if you do, and that’s the only reason I bother lacing up at all

using too many words and too few breaths to simply wonder what you think of truth and lies and equipment and selves and if how when maybe someday past it all in fact turned boring—all done, all said—no matter how much lag there is between you, the instant, and I, finding the middle ground within the circle we create to do something more than lie to ourselves and in the beds we make, if the truth with a capital T is only in reflexivity, in obverse, the way Z is not for Xylophone, it just sounds like that.

But I leave you to decide, and leave you now, sincerely, goodbye, so long, farewell.

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fiction

TALL TALES

Chris R-0724.jpg Image by Christine Renney

The boy’s dad told tall tales and he had a language all of his own.
‘I don’t know about you,’ he would say, ‘but I’m feeling fair flaumbered.’ Meaning that he was hot and bothered or too tired and agitated, that he didn’t want to talk or join in.
‘What you need,’ his dad said, ‘what would do you some good, what would sort you out, is a few years in the Army.’
‘Oh yeah,’ the boy scoffed, ‘so that I can run away like you did?’
And then they would start. The boy supposed that his dad wanted him to get out there, to react against something but instead the boy just lay around the house reading and listening to music.

Shortly after the boy’s younger brother was married his dad went for a haircut.
‘How’re the family?’ the barber enquired.
‘Oh, fine,’ his dad said, ‘just fine. My youngest is married now.’
‘Really?’ the barber exclaimed.
‘Oh yeah,’ his dad replied, ‘and the oldest, well, he’s in the States.’
‘Oh really?’ the barber repeated.
‘Yeah,’ his dad said, ‘he’s travelling around on the Greyhound buses having the time of his life.’

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fiction, life

ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE

Chris R-0232.jpg Image by Christine Renney

The boy had pushed his dad so far that he had hurled his dentures across the room. They lay broken beside the dog bowl. His dad picked them up and sat at the kitchen table pushing the pieces together, trying to stick them with glue.
The boy kept on pushing. He didn’t really know very much about anything; he was just a numb blonde kid with bad skin and braces. He had once threatened his dad with a knife but on this occasion the boy’s mum pulls them apart and no weapons are involved other than their fists.

At seventeen the boy’s dad had enlisted in the Army. He had begged and pleaded with his own dad until at last the old man, worn down, signed the papers.

The boy’s dad was posted to Germany and he had learned to drive on the Autobahn. But he didn’t fit, wasn’t suited and so the boy’s dad had headed for home. Just like that.

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