prosetry

tabernacled in flesh

It’s the keeping in that makes my heart palpitate because it’s not telling the truth and then I’m in a hospital bed being nothing but honest about the white in my beard. Football (or fútbol) or baseball (or fútbol). Boxers or briefs. Scotch or whiskey (or wine or beer). Blondes or brunettes or both or whatever. It’s this or that, to be a man, and sometimes life or death—but you saw that coming.

Poets are soft i.e. effeminate and I’ve been told I have both but definitions are fluid and you wouldn’t know it to look at me. All that matters is right now, he said, stoically, warm with stern tradition, and I’m constantly surprised to be here, tormented at times by possible selves and seeking an appropriate rendering of manhood to stick to.

Today I am the type who folds over the corners of too many pages of too many books, parturient with the power of what words have done to me and holding fast to the strange singular spirit within.

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life

All That Appeared Was a Blind Obstinate Impulse Expressing Itself in Bursts of Foolishness

Canceled my New Yorker subscription some months ago, as if that would help me feel less scatterbrained, once the basement bargain on the first year of issues expired and I was back to not being special anymore and just like everyone else again. All too trite and elitist, I thought, silently excusing myself from participation in some indefinable currency, realizing the feebleness of this withdrawal as that snarky manikin leered over my shoulder and snarkily suggested I’d have been more of a pseudo-sophisticate if I’d spelled realizing with an s.

There is simply too much to think about. I imagine turning to the man next to me at the nearly empty bar I’m not sitting in and saying “so what’s it like for you out there” and his obscure eyes turn to meet me with a look of total cancelation surpassing even the negation I supposed I’d find. “Bellow,” I’d say, and he’d hear it as a verb and turn away. “But this was his city, too,” I’d protest, “twice.” That has to mean something, though it’s a lifelong effort to understand that not everything does, and how. Four years on the seventh floor was a form of sanctuary but not as transcendental as I supposed.

Here, the wind blows this way and that, often in the same breath. There’s surely a meteorological explanation for this, I think, remembering the local tv news weather report showing large currents of blue and purple computer-generated atmosphere above a matte gray-brown map and how those currents seemed—always—to converge directly above this city. On the ground down where I now live I watch little plastic flags on clotheshanger-thin wire poles stuck in the muck and mud of lived experience to mark gas lines nervelessly flutter back and forth, but I tend toward the figurative and a certain desultory envy of inanimate stoicism, supposing for convenience’s sake that that’s not a contradiction in terms, nor is the struggle to perfect oneself in the symbolic discipline of an art.

Have you ever loved living so much you were afraid to let it out of your sight? Did you cling to it, even in despair, despite its flutters and turns, despite the partisan, balkanized categorizations that we adopt as identities? That’s all I want to know, I *promise* that’s all I’ll ever ask.

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fiction, photography

THE LOOKALIKE

Chris R-0129 Image by Christine Renney

A man had moved into one of the ground floor flats at the far end of the cul-de-sac. He looked just like Richard Nixon and Thomas was fascinated, less by his uncanny resemblance to the disgraced former President, but the fact that the man seemed to have embraced it.
He always dressed as Nixon had; white shirt with a dark tie and with his jacket a little too tight across the shoulders. The jacket buttons seemed barely able to contain a man who somehow managed to be both coiled and slumped inside of it. Always hunched over, with his chin almost touching his chest, he appeared to have no neck.
Thomas was flummoxed as to why anyone would choose to emulate a man who historically had been so maligned, who to all intents and purposes, had failed in such a monumental and public way.
Thomas wondered if he was a professional ‘Look Alike’, although he couldn’t imagine there was much call for such a thing in 2017. But maybe over the years the man had become so locked into the part he was now unable to function as himself.

‘Have you seen the old man across the street?’ Thomas asked his wife, ‘the one who looks like Richard Nixon?’
‘Nixon?’ his wife queried. ‘What do you mean, Nixon?’
‘Richard Nixon, the American President, Watergate and that.’
‘I know who Richard Nixon is but that isn’t who he is. He’s that other guy.’
‘Who are you talking about, what guy?’
‘The other one from back when. I can’t remember his name but he had that TV show. They’re always showing old clips of him introducing Elvis or the Beatles.’
‘Ed Sullivan?’
‘Yes, him, Ed Sullivan.’
‘He isn’t Ed Sullivan, why would he want to be Ed Sullivan?’
‘Why not? Why Nixon then?’
‘Point taken but he isn’t Ed Sullivan, He’s Nixon, he has to be.’
‘Why does he have to be?’
‘I don’t know but he does!’ Thomas shouted.
‘Ok, ok. Calm down. So, if he is Nixon what would you say to him? If he really were, what would you ask him now?’
‘I don’t know,’ Thomas pondered the question, ’Nixon wanted it all so badly and he really worked at it and, after all the disappointments, he finally made it. He had what he wanted. He was exactly where he wanted to be and he screwed it up. So, I supposed I’d ask him what it was like, living with that.’
‘Wow, ok, but what if it is Sullivan? Would you ask him anything?’
Thomas laughed
‘I don’t know. Probably what was it like meeting with the Beatles and to meet Elvis.’
‘Didn’t Nixon meet Elvis and The Beatles?’
‘You’re right, he did.’
‘Wow, that’s it!’ his wife jumped up. ‘That’s how we do it.’
‘Do what?’ He stared at her, a blank expression on his face.
‘That’s how we find out.’
‘Find out what?’
‘Who he is or who he is trying to be.’
‘How?’
‘We ask him. We ask the man across the street about Elvis and The Beatles and we deduce from what he has to say, work it out from his answers, whether he’s Nixon or Ed Sullivan.’

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poetry

Mediocre

Being “someone” felt like taking
care of a baby that wasn’t mine,
sad little helpless stinking bundle
of other people’s exhaustion,
expectations, and distress, alone
in a home not my own at night
fumbling around in a dark room
with anemic hallway light coming
in thin, searching for bottles and
rattles and whatever the fuck else
those bundles require for pacification
while the bundle itself kept
unraveling from its swaddles,
squirming and wailing, loyal only
to its own suffering.

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prosetry

Other Girls

Once, during the summer of our confusion, you told me that you loved me because I wasn’t like other girls. I found that phrase to be repulsively hackneyed then, and still think it’s insultingly trite when men say it now, but because it was you I let you say so. I would’ve let you say anything.

I did ask you what made me different, though. And I remember you said, “You’re the kind of girl that would return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want you to know what kind of girl I actually was. Then you said in a cloud of smoke, “Through brazen curiosity, though, not stupidity,” and I still didn’t say anything and you didn’t expand on your thought any more, even though now I wish more than anything that you had, that you’d told me who I was, that you’d explained me to me.

That one thought that you almost certainly don’t remember now could have defined me. Perhaps it did, because here I am, standing at the scene of the crime and thinking about your thought while you don’t think of me at all anymore.

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art, life, screenplay

Notes from the Shrink’s Chair: Jimmy

 

IMG_5946.JPG

artwork by Francesca Strange

 

Notes from the Shrink’s Chair: Jimmy/Antonia

 

Dedicated to C.J., my heroine and a true bastion for bravery

 

OPEN SCENE: Right of frame, gloomy lighting. Dr. Strange sits at his oakwood desk, large and reclining, as he peruses his patients’ files. He furrows his brows, thick, under a mop of greying, greasy hair; he rubs his hands through it, a habit he has curated over the twenty years in his profession. A tell, if anything. He is clearly frustrated, stupefied, as to how he should proceed in his current state. A file, new, sits at the forefront of his desk; after a moment’s hesitation, he leafs through it.

 

[BEAT]

STRANGE – takes out a voice recorder from his suit pocket. Turns it on.

STRANGE:

Seventh of September, 2014. Patient James Connington, otherwise known as Jimmy to his family and friends. Fifteen years old. Heavily depressed, suffering from acute body dysmorphia. Tendencies towards self-inflicted bodily harm. Burns on forearms, bruising found on upper thoracic region and extending limbs. Heavily injured due to unreported reasons.

 

[BEAT]

STRANGE:

Latest diary entry, as follows.

 

CUT TO: A boy, sitting at a desk, on the opposite end of the frame. Scruffy-looking, wearing a football uniform scored with grass-stains and tussle. He kicks his football cleats off, spreading mud and dirt all over an otherwise clean, white carpet. He scribbles into an old exercise book, biting his lips as he struggles with his work. He hears his siblings playing behind him, and as a reflex, covers his notebook with his arm, protectively. Once he is sure that he is alone, he begins writing again.

 

JIMMY:

Momma caught her today, just as she was about to leave the house. She had that beautiful necklace I picked out for her, the one that matches her eyes at it catches the sun. And that soft, suede lipstick, the one she wears with that dress I like. The pink one. She looked so beautiful in it, as she always does. So light and airy, like one of those story-book elves as she danced around my room. Enchanting, how free she can be. As if none of life’s rules applied to her. Like gravity; she didn’t agree with it, so she never let it buckle her down.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d)

Anyway, we were about to go to church. Momma saw her sneaking out of my window, as she always does when she stays the night. She hates going to church, (it makes her feel like a phoney), so she never goes with the family. Anyway, Momma. Momma screamed hellfire when she saw her. She looked possessed, almost demonic with rage. I never heard her use words like that. Especially not on a Sunday. Next thing, Momma pushes her out the window. Just like that. It didn’t take much of a shove, she’s so light. There’s nothing to her. And from my room, you could see her lying on the grass. Strewn all over it, all of her spread across the lawn. Like a china doll. Pieces everywhere. The necklace crushed by the fall.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d):

I didn’t linger. I had to go back upstairs, brush myself down, get ready for church, and pack my things for football. There’s a big game next weekend, and coach has been riding my ass about it for weeks. Saying things like: ‘Boys, it takes one to dismantle a team. Just one. And it is only men, men who can play this game. Because men know better than to pussy out when it hurts. Men know better than to stop, because men keep on going. When no one expects them to, when all odds are against them, only true men will cross that final line and take home the gold’. Coach never knows when to stop, when enough is enough. Never with her.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d)

They were in the locker rooms, both of them. Coach and her. After football practice. I usually get changed there, on Sundays after practice. There’s this bar on the other side of town that only opens on Sundays. It’s called Antonia’s, by the way. The bar. Poppa drives past it when he goes to work, and sneers at it every day: ‘That fag bar, always full of goddamn fruitcakes. Goddamn scum, what fucking animals’. She doesn’t care about what Poppa says, she loves them all. It’s her favourite bar, because everyone there is just as outrageous as she is. And she’s friends with all the busboys, the kings and queens – And she dances with everyone: complete strangers, both men and women. She doesn’t care who they are, what they’ve done to get them there, at that bar. Because to her, it’s home. Antonia’s.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (voice faltering)

She was slipping on her stilettos, as coach brushed himself up behind her. I saw him in the mirror behind me. I was packing up her things, her makeup, her kit. She was roaring to go, fired up as she always is. But I turned cold.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (hysterical, sobbing as he recounts the rest)

His hands were wrapped around her throat, I couldn’t breathe. He pushed me to the ground, and pressed my cheek to the tiled floor with his muddy cleats. ‘This is what you were made for’, he hissed, as he stroked my back, ‘men like me take, women like you give. Make your choice, boy. What would you rather do? Would you rather give or, would you rather take?’. I lay there, silently. It wasn’t the first time, I thought, and it wouldn’t be the last. Unless I did something about it.

 

[BEAT]

 

CUT TO: Dr. Strange, sitting emotionless. He pauses the recorder, sighs, and takes a sip out a hip flask. He continues:

 

STRANGE

Seventh of September, 2014. Coroner’s report – patient James Connington. Adolescent Male, Caucasian, mid-teens. Cause of death: asphyxia, constricting force applied to the ligature on the upper occipital region. Compressive narrowing of laryngeal and tracheal lumina observed. Ligature mark on neck is deeply impressed; it’s composition: superficial abrasions across the front and nape of neck, indicates the implementation of a thickly textured material. Most likely a rope. Will compare fibres to those found in the Connington family’s workshop. Severe Internal haemorrhaging in lower torso and abdominal area indicate heavy assault. Lipstick stains across his cheeks, across his face. Prominent bruising on face and forehead under thick cosmetic foundation. Also indicating a struggle. No fingerprints or biological fibres, or any forensic clues found on subject. Perpetrator, still at large.

 

CUT TO: Black.

 

END. Continue reading

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fiction, life

Niksa

WP-Niksa

I met Niksa when I rented a room in his house, an old fisherman’s cottage he had renovated for tourists who visit the old town of Dubrovnik. He liked to talk; fuck me, did he like to talk. He cornered me in the kitchen as I made a cappuccino, and we had a conversation of sorts – the kind of one-way interaction where I was given the role of Listener. He spoke at length about himself and his life, never asking anything of me, never giving me pause to respond. I listened in a polite manner, but as time passed I became aware from his tone and words that this interaction was for his benefit, that I was a pair of ears, no more, and that he was tolerating me being in his home as a paying irritant. He did not want to be “running a fucking guest-house in Croatia”, he explained – a fact I had already surmised.

He was a retired merchant seaman, and while his physical home was between these exposed stone walls, his nervous twitch belied his unsteady land-legs. He told of how he earned his sailing stripes in the Seventies, running “concrete” from Colombia to the Caribbean Islands, shipping apples the other direction for great profit. He had crossed the Panama Canal more times than he could remember, then spent the Eighties traversing Suez to complete the matching pair. He told tales of happier times in what are now the more war-torn cities of our World. He described how he would walk down the broad avenues of Mogadishu, arms thrown around the shoulders of “buxom Negresses”. In Beirut, he had been felated by a “towel head’s bitch” won in a poker game, after a night in the clandestine bars of the old town. He bought a “handful of Wogs” for the night in Calcutta, and “Chinks for his entire crew” in Shanghai. He ticked a bucket-list item in Bangkok when he was “banged by a cock”, which I thought was nice of him to share. There were other ports and cities dropped into the tale, so many I cannot recall. He stopped short of suggesting Sea Shanties be written in his stead, but casual racism aside, it was clear he had great affection for the World at large.

But things change, and we are only as arrogant of life as we are right now, in this moment.

As I sucked the froth from my cold coffee, he moved on to explain how he was in New Orleans when Katrina struck. He was evacuated to Houston a shredded man, becoming disabled by anxiety and sleep apnoea.  Banned on health grounds from crewing container ships at the age of forty-five, his life ended. He struggled with living on land, but the “shit little sailboats” didn’t come close to satisfying his considerable sea-itch. As a means to kill time (and not himself), he invested the profits from his apple-smuggling to renovate and rent holiday homes in his homeland.

He fell silent and stared at the flagstone floor. I looked into my pale coffee and wished I was somewhere else. Then he smiled, looked all around the room to make sure we were alone, then moved closer. I backed away a little, but he followed. He whispered that for the coming Winter he has found illegal passage, working a frigate running the Indian Ocean. Shh… He tells me this voyage will be his last, and that he has no plans to return to land. I can see in his eyes that this Winter will be his last. He asks me what I think of that – but my mouth fails to fashion a response. He stares at me, face falling, disappointed I am not rubber stamping his plan. He turns and leaves me alone, the silence buzzing in my ears.

I make a fresh coffee.

A man of contradiction, that within an hour came across as insufferable and vulnerable in equal measure. I did not know if I felt nauseated by him, sympathetic, or couldn’t have given a shit. What I do know, is that there is a renovated fisherman’s house in Croatia that will be up for sale in January – a fantastic business opportunity. Anyone want to invest with me?

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